Progress in Southern States: Kentucky Pulls Back on Anti-LGBT Stance

With the US’s divide when it comes to politics, many should not be surprised that anti-LGBTQ+ legislation runs rampant in the South. States such as Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Kentucky have all been labeled as places for queer folks to avoid.

A New Shift

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This past year, however, attitudes might be shifting the state of Kentucky. Kentucky’s General Assembly for 2024 adjourned this Monday, and with its adjournment came a monumental shift in the political tide.

No Hate in the Bluegrass State

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This marks the first year in which the Bluegrass State adjourned without passing a single anti-LGBTQ+ piece of legislation. Activists, politicians, and political thinkers are only left with one question: what changed?

Seeds for Transphobia

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Many may speculate that Kentucky met this milestone because there simply were no anti-LGBTQ+ policies proposed, but that would be false. Several bills targeting the trans community advanced through several committees.

None Shall Pass

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While these bills were passed as far as the legislative body for the Commonwealth, all of them ended up in the wastebasket rather than being enacted into law.

A Legislative Review

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Some of the notorious bills, such as House Bill 47, would have led to LGBTQ+ Fairness Ordinances being diminished statewide. Other bills like Senate Bill 147 would have severely restricted drag performances, which has a vibrant history in the state.

Moral Relief or Malpractice?

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Other bills seemed to undercut women and trans rights. Senate Bill 239, a “conscience” clause, would have allowed medical caregivers to abstain from practice in the case of moral objection, targeting abortion and gender-confirming treatment.

Kentucky and Others

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Executive Director for the queer rights organization The Fairness Campaign, Chris Hartman, commented: “Kentucky now joins other states across the South — including Florida, Georgia, and West Virginia — where nearly every single anti-LGBTQ+ measure introduced in these statehouses was defeated this year.”

Fight for Rights

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Hartman continued his sentiment: “Over the last few months, thousands across the commonwealth stood fiercely in defense of their LGBTQ friends, family and neighbors, and made it clear to lawmakers: enough is enough.”

No Time to Rest

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Kentucky is not alone in its accomplishment. However, several pro-LGBTQ+ activists are hesitant to rest. The victory for the state did not come without plenty of effort.

Middle of the Road

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According to statistics from the organization SafeHome, Kentucky ranked as the 28th safest state to live in for queer individuals in 2023. Hardly a number worth boasting, but it is better off than its neighbor, Tennessee, which ranked second to last.

Moving Forward

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It certainly does not seem like Kentucky is the dream destination for any LGBTQ+ traveler, but it does suggest something. The refusal of political bodies to pass even a single homophobic law points to a shift in public opinion and safety.

Unexpected Change

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Such a change from Kentucky is welcome, but entirely unexpected. At this time last year, Kentucky had enacted one of the harshest anti-trans bills in the country. 

Limited Learning

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Articles from the newly passed law banned talk of sexuality and gender identity from students and teachers in school environments. It also required trans students to use the bathroom for their gender assigned at birth and allowed teachers to refuse the use of preferred pronouns.

Doctor’s Orders

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Additionally, the law bled over into the state healthcare system. Doctors caring for trans youth were required to de-transitions patients in the process of certain gender treatment options.

Nothing Left Unscathed

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Political commentators believe that Kentucky’s ease up on queer-binding legislation may be due to the fact that there is little left to police. With the passing of anti-trans law in March of last year, traditionalists have little left to target in terms of LGBTQ+ rights.

What Now?

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Across the nation, over 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were proposed during state sessions in 2023. 80 of which were approved and made law. In 2024, 484 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were proposed and less than 25 have been enacted. 

It Gets Better

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This downward trend of proposals and upward trend of rejections gives many in the state a sense of hope. LGBTQ+ folks living in-state can feel slightly better, knowing things are improving.

Failing in the Best Way

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Former Republican Secretary Trey Grayson, who now advocates for a pro-queer coalition called Kentucky Competes, stated “it’s clear that the anti-LGBTQ+ agenda is starting to fail, both in Kentucky and across the country.”

Hard Work Pays Off

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At this point in American politics, the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is far from over. However, small steps forward like this one highlight that the work was not done in vain.

The post Kentucky Calls Time on Anti-LGBT Stance – Is This Progress in the Southern States? first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

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