March 30, 2023
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center statement on Kentucky SB150
Kentucky’s bill SB150 poses a dangerous precedent and potential setback for national civil rights and health equity in our country. Specifically, this legislation, which became state law in Kentucky yesterday (March 29), impacts the rights of Kentucky’s transgender youth in several ways, including denying gender-affirming medical care, rejecting the use of preferred pronouns and restricting access to restrooms. Extreme legislation of this nature reflects a lack of understanding and empathy on the part of those who voted to support this bill.
In fact, SB150 is inconsistent with one of the most important Amendments to the Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State where they reside. No State shall enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protections of the laws.” To pass this law is to declare a transgender individual to not be a person.
Kentucky SB150, and the many like it propagating across the country, is an attack on personhood – on a person’s right to be.
Legislation rooted in hate is dangerous. It emboldens bigotry and protects hate while stifling freedom and crushing empathy.
The obstinance and insensitivity to not use a person’s chosen pronoun – to deny them their identity – has a pernicious legacy. The kidnapped Africans brought to the Americas in bondage were stripped of their names, their identity. The Jewish people deported to concentration camps were given numbers, stripped of their names and their humanity.
Legislating against a person for who they are is nothing new in this country. Neither is legislating which restrooms a person can use based on arbitrary descriptors new in this country. We saw it throughout the Jim Crow era.
It’s a wicked part of our history. But it does not need to be a part of our future.
These decisions are being made by individuals voted into office by the citizens of their state. And yet, more than 70% of Kentuckians do not support such overreaching legislation. This statistic suggests this is not a governing body acting on behalf of the people’s will.
So today we urge every person to use your hard-earned right to vote to elect people who will protect human rights, who will legislate with compassion, who will lead with empathy. Vote not just for your own interests, but for the millions who may be impacted by your commitment to equity and inclusion.
Woodrow Keown, Jr.
President & COO
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center