FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — On Thursday, the Senate Education Committee was originally scheduled to take up a bill that would ban transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams. But hours before the scheduled vote, the bill was removed from the agenda.
However, people fighting for transgender rights still made their way to Frankfort to send lawmakers a message: they are prepared to fight back.
"We're going to do everything we can to protect Kentucky kids and make certain that kids can play," said Chris Hartman, the executive director of the Fairness Campaign.
Several people sat quietly in the audience of Thursday's meeting, but their stickers spoke for them.
"Oppose SB 83," the stickers said.
Under Senate Bill 83, schools would need to identify each sports team as either "boys," "girls" or "coed."
The bill says all students would be allowed to play on boys or coed teams. But girls' teams "shall not be open to members of the male sex."
The bill also says the Kentucky Board of Education, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, school districts, or schools will not be allowed to "entertain a complaint, open an investigation, or take any other adverse action" against schools for preventing transgender girls from playing on girls teams.
However, the bill would allow students "deprived of an athletic opportunity" or who suffer harm from transgender girls playing on girls teams to sue their school district.
Hartman says this is "a coordinated, nationwide attack on LGBTQ youth."
The bill's primary sponsor, Sen. Robby Mills, was not at Thursday's meeting. However, he has sponsored similar bills in past legislative sessions.
In 2020, in a tweet directed at one of the bill's critics, Mills says the gender identities of athletes "is not an issue until your daughter is unfairly beaten by a biological male!"
Hartman believes people are missing the point behind why most kids want to play sports.
"We're talking about kids here," said Hartman. "I think in this debate people are thinking about high level, competitive, collegiate sports. We're talking about children who just want to play on sports teams with their friends. And they should have the ability to do that."
Hartman says it's already "nearly impossible" for trans kids to play high school sports in Kentucky.
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association currently allows transgender athletes to compete in sports. However, the policy requires transgender athletes to undergo sex reassignment surgery before they can compete on the team reflecting their gender identity.
"Kentucky currently has one of the most restrictive policies on trans kids participating in sports anywhere in the nation," said Hartman. "It is already nearly impossible to meet the standards set forth by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association."
LEX 18 asked Senate Education Chairman Max Wise, a co-sponsor of SB 83, why this issue is being taken up.
Wise said it's a topic people requested lawmakers to look into.
"We're hearing a lot of comments from constituents across the state about the issue. We're looking at what other states have done...as it relates to athletic play and involving transgender students," said Wise.