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LGBTQ advocates rally for fairness as Kentucky lawmakers advance anti-trans bill

Ryland Barton

Advocates rallied for LGBTQ rights at the Kentucky Capitol on Wednesday, calling for lawmakers to stop advancing bills that would ban trans girls from participating in girls sports.

Supporters also renewed their call for lawmakers to pass a statewide fairness ordinance—banning discrimination based on sexual orientation—and to approve a bill that would prohibit conversion therapy.

Keturah Herron—a Democratic candidate for a legislative seat in Louisville who identifies as queer, masculine-presenting woman—said she experienced intolerance at the legislature during her time as a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union.

She said at one point she was told by a woman to use a different bathroom.

“I understand I am supposed to be in this space. However, I understand that my mere presence makes some people uncomfortable. My advice to them: Get used to it,” Herron said.

Herron is running in a special election on Feb. 22 for House District 42 against Republican Judy Martin Stallard.

Over the last week, Republicans have advanced bills in both the House and Senate that would ban transgender girls from participating in girls sports, even though there haven’t been any complaints in Kentucky about such rare cases.

As the Senate prepared to debate one of those bills on Wednesday, chants from the rally could be heard in the chamber, forcing lawmakers to keep the doors closed.

Donzella Lee, a pastor and executive director of theFranklin-Simpson Human Rights Commission, encouraged rallygoers to make noise.

“Today the Senate is planning to vote on one of these bills, and I want you to tell them as loud and proud as you can: Let kids play,” Lee shouted to the crowd.

The annual event featured a long list of Democratic speakers, including Gov. Andy Beshear, who was the first governor to ever speak at the rally in 2020.

“We cannot possibly reach our fullest potential unless every single one of our families, every single one of our people feels supported and valued to be themselves,” Beshear said.

U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker said Republican lawmakers were pushing for anti-trans legislation while ignoring other priorities.

“They’d rather focus on banning trans youth from playing in sports than making sure you have health care. They would rather ban trans youth from playing in sports than making sure you have clean water,” Booker said.

Rep. Attica Scott, a Democrat from Louisville, said the fight for LGBTQ rights goes hand-in-hand with the fight against racism.

“We can’t all get wherever there is unless we get there together,” Scott said.

Shortly after the rally, theSenate passed Senate Bill 83, banning trans girls from playing girls sports in middle school and high school, with a vote of 27-8. The House will now consider the measure.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at