FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky House advanced a measure Thursday that would bar transgender girls from participating in school sports that match their gender identity from sixth grade to college. Because the the Republican-backed bill was amended in House, it now heads back to the Senate for concurrence.
Under the proposal, the gender of a student for the purpose of determining athletic eligibility would be determined by the ”student’s certified birth certificate as originally issued at the time of birth or adoption.”
If it passes into law, Kentucky would join a growing number of GOP-dominated states adopting similar bans, though the bans have been challenged in several states as violations of federal law. In almost every one of those states, sponsors have been unable to cite a single instance in their own state or region where such participation has caused problems.
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American Civil Liberties Union Kentucky spokesman Samuel Crankshaw, in a statement, called the measure a “solution in search of a non-existent problem.”
“If this becomes law, it will jeopardize our children’s mental health, physical well-being, and ability to access educational opportunities comparable to their peers,” Crankshaw said.
Kentucky’s lawmakers also voted Thursday to replace Kentucky State University’s Board of Regents. Under the new legislation, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear would be required to appoint eight new board members by April 4.
The bill, which received bipartisan support in both chambers, now heads to the governor.
KSU, the state’s only public historically Black university, has remained under state oversight since last summer when concerns about the school’s finances and lawsuits alleging misconduct by campus officials came to a head.
A state report, ordered by Beshear, later found evidence of poor financial management by university leadership resulting in financial losses starting in 2018-19.
Senate President Pro Tem David Givens said last week that a new board must “be in place and confirmed by the Senate” before the university receives the $23 million officials have called vital to the school’s survival.
Meanwhile, a Kentucky Senate panel advanced a bill that would ban the use of the death penalty for some defendants diagnosed with severe mental illnesses.
The measure sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee with no resistance. If the full Senate passes the bill without changes, the measure would go to Beshear. It won House passage by a wide margin last month. Republicans have overwhelming majorities in both chambers.
Last year, a similar bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate. Since then, the bill’s leading supporters consulted key senators as the new version was crafted.
Under this year’s bill, the death penalty ban would apply to defendants with a documented history — including a diagnosis from a mental health professional — of certain mental disorders and who had active symptoms at the time of the offense. The disorders include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and delusional disorder.
“It doesn’t mean they’re going free,” said Republican Rep. Chad McCoy, the bill’s lead sponsor. “It doesn’t mean they’re not getting punished. It just means it’s going to be life in prison without parole.”
Republican Sen. Danny Carroll thanked the bill’s sponsors for the revisions.
“In the past years when we’ve had this bill, my concern has always been the state of mind (of the defendant) at the time the crime occurs,” he said. “I think you all have addressed that.”
The last execution in Kentucky was in 2008.
Hudspeth Blackburn is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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