FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill that addresses student pronouns, informs parents about health services, and would let parents inspect lesson plans for topics like human sexuality and family planning is one step closer to becoming law. Senate Bill 150 passed in the State Senate Thursday. 

What You Need To Know

  • Republican lawmakers in Kentucky have passed a bill allowing teachers to refuse to refer to transgender students by their preferred pronouns

  • State senators voted on an amended version of the bill Thursday 

  • The measure was touted as protecting free-speech rights in classrooms, but denounced by a lawmaker whose transgender son died recently

  • It is now up to the House to also pass the bill

The bill was introduced by Senator Max Wise (R-Campbellsville). Wise is also the running mate for Gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft. 

Opponents of the bill believe it is harmful to transgender kids. 

SB 150 was introduced by Senator Max Wise, R-Campbellsville. (Spectrum News 1/Mason Brighton)

Sen. Wise addressed the state Senate Thursday ahead of the vote, speaking on the use of pronouns in the classroom. 

“Nothing in that bill prevents a parent or a guardian from requesting the use of a name or a nickname different from the name in the student’s educational records,” Sen. Wise said. 

SB150 would give educators the option to use pronouns aligned with a student’s gender identity, but not require it. 

“A middle ground can be found without forcing a teacher to use a pronoun that does not conform to the student’s sex, but pronouns are different. The terms he and she communicate fixed facts about a person and teachers should not be forced to violate their consciences regarding what they know to be true or not true,” Wise said. 

Sen. Karen Berg (D-Louisville) was one of six lawmakers who voted against the bill. Berg’s son, Henry Berg-Brousseau, was a transgender rights advocate who died late last year at age 24. The cause was suicide, his mother said.

“Your vote ‘yes’ on this bill means one of two things,” Sen. Berg said. “Either you believe that trans children do not exist, or you believe that trans children do not deserve to exist.”

Also voting no was Sen. Robin Webb (D-Grayson), who criticized the timing of this bill being brought to the floor. A new version of the bill was adopted by a committee just hours before the vote. During that meeting, several people spoke in opposition to the bill. 

“It was not on this computer screen until just now. I’ve not had adequate time to do that, I’ve not had adequate time to see the testimony of mental health care professionals, one of which we honored here today, to see maybe what that impact of this may have,” Webb said. 

Other Democrats denounced the bill as they watched GOP senators support the measure. Democratic Sen. Denise Harper Angel called it “the meanest piece of legislation” she had seen in her Senate career. Another Senate Democrat, David Yates, said children were being “played as political pawns.”

Other parts of the measure would prohibit education leaders from requiring policies to keep students’ information confidential from their parents. Schools could choose to withhold the information if, based on past conduct, they believe the information would lead to parental abuse.

It also would require that parents be given notice and an opportunity to review materials before human sexuality instruction begins at their children’s school. An alternate assignment would have to be made available for students whose parents disapprove of the instruction.

Senate Bill 150 passed along party lines. Senator Stephen Meredith, the sole republican who voted no on the bill during the bill’s final committee meeting, was not present for Thursday’s vote. 

Lawmakers in the House will now take up the bill. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.