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Former Kentucky lawmaker makes plea on gender-affirming care

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — For years, Jerry Miller was a fixture at legislative hearings in Kentucky, but this time was different: the Republican ex-lawmaker opened up about how his young grandchild could be hurt by a bill to ban access to gender-affirming medical care for those under 18.

“This bill condemns vulnerable children to an even more difficult life than they’ve already been born into,” Miller told a Senate committee on Tuesday. “Please don’t let a parent’s right to protect their children be collateral damage in the culture wars.”

Despite his emotional pleas, the transgender-related bill was approved by the GOP-led committee, sending it to the full Senate. Some Republican members, however, raised concerns about portions of the measure, which could temporarily slow its path through the chamber. The House recently approved its version of the measure.

The measure grew in scope before emerging from the Senate committee. The panel tacked on elements of other trans-related proposals introduced this year. One key addition would forbid Kentucky schools from discussing gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.

Another addition would allow teachers to refuse to refer to transgender students by their preferred pronouns. It also would require that parents be given notice and an opportunity to review materials before content relating to sexuality is taught at their children’s school.

Nationally, state lawmakers are approving extensive measures against LGBTQ individuals this year, from bills targeting trans athletes and drag performers to ones limiting gender-affirming care. In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves recently signed a bill to ban gender-affirming hormones or surgery in the state for anyone younger than 18. The Republican governors of South Dakota and Utah have signed bans on gender-affirming care this year.

Miller, who retired from the Kentucky House after deciding not to seek reelection last year, returned to the statehouse Tuesday to speak out against the Kentucky measure — House Bill 470 — because he said it would affect his 7-year-old grandchild.

He focused on the sections that would ban access to gender-transition medical care for those under 18. It would apply specifically to hormone and surgical treatments. The measure would designate gender-transition care for those under 18 as unethical and unprofessional conduct by health care providers. Their licenses to practice would be revoked for providing such treatment if the measure becomes law.

Miller criticized the prohibitions as an intrusion into parental rights.

“Where is Kentucky’s compelling government interest in not letting a parent protect their own children’s safety and happiness?” Miller said.

He said his grandchild, from a young age, focused on “dolls, not balls” and started dressing like a girl.

“I hoped he would grow out of it, but that has not happened,“ Miller said. ”Do I wish he were a ‘normal boy’? Absolutely yes. I still screw up the pronoun thing, but regardless of anything, I’m going to love my grandchild and fight for what I think is best for (her).”

Supporters say the intent is to protect children from medical decisions that would be irreversible.

“I don’t think this bill could be strong enough,“ said Republican Sen. Lindsey Tichenor. ”We’re talking about irreparable, permanent changes to a child. Their brains are not developed … They have no idea what the consequences could be until they get to that age, and at that point you cannot undo what is being done.”

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