Kentucky: Transgender Bathroom Bills Dead in the Water

Kentucky Democrat Rick Nelson proposed HB105 and HB 106 - Religious Freedom & Bathroom Bills

Two Kentucky legislature bills targeting the transgender community are dead in the water according to House Speaker Jeff Hoover (R). While HB 106 more broadly focused on bathroom use across the state (similar to the structuring of North Carolina HB2), HB 141 explicitly targeted public school restrooms. According to Republican leadership, neither bill will receive a vote during this session.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported:

Two bills that attempt to regulate where transgender people can use the bathroom will not get a vote in the Kentucky House of Representatives, House Speaker Jeff Hoover said Thursday.

“It’s dead, wherever it is,” Hoover said of House Bill 106.

Republican leaders in Frankfort have been wary of the issue after seeing controversy erupt when North Carolina passed a bill that required people to use a bathroom corresponding with their biological sex. The state was boycotted by several businesses because of the law, including the NCAA, and the governor who signed the bill lost reelection.

But conservative groups in Kentucky have continued pushing the General Assembly to pass a similar law.

“We know there is a lot of support among rank and file Republicans for the legislation,” said Martin Cothran, a spokesman for The Family Foundation.

Cothran said his organization supports House Bill 141, a bill that focuses on restrooms in public schools, rather than HB 106, which was nearly identical to the North Carolina legislation.

But when asked if HB 141 has a better chance, Hoover shot it down.

“It’s just as dead,” said Hoover, R-Jamestown.

The announcement does not come as a surprise as congressional leaders on the right have repeatedly stated the targeting of transgender people is not at the top of their list priorities for this session – particularly after what happened in North Carolina during the November election (when former Governor Pat McCrory was ousted from office based on his relentless support for similar legislation).

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) also previously expressed opposition to the bills. He went on record speaking out against legislators supporting so-called ‘bathroom bills’ arguing legislators should be focused on jobs, not culture war battles.

“Why? Why would we? Why would anybody need it? Is it an issue? Is there anyone you know in Kentucky who has trouble going to the bathroom?” Bevin said. “Seriously. Have you heard of one person in Kentucky having trouble taking care of business in Kentucky?”

He continued by arguing “the last thing we need is more government rules.” Bevin added, “Making government rules for things that don’t even need government rules would be silly.”

Reacting to the news, Kentucky Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman released a statement saying in part, “That’s great news for the commonwealth. Not only does it protect transgender Kentuckians, but it also protects the economy of Kentucky, which can’t become North Carolina.”

Though Hoover made no mention of HB 105 – the so-called  ‘religious freedom’ bill that would allow the use of religious belief to be used to legally justify discrimination against LGBTQ people in places of public accommodation – it has generally been considered a no-go this session for the same reasons as HB 106 and HB 141.

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Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he's worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.

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