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SB 150 will harm military families and their missions

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SB 150 will harm military families and their missions

Mar 27, 2023 | 5:40 am ET
By Jonathan Hedrick
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SB 150 will harm military families and their missions
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The tradition of rubbing Abraham Lincoln's toe for good luck leaves his statue's boot shiny and worn. During the Kentucky Fairness Rally for LGBTQ Rights, the colors of the Progress Pride flag shared the Rotunda with Lincoln, who once famously said, "With malice toward none and charity for all." (Kentucky Lantern photo by Sarah Ladd)

No matter how you feel about trans health care, we can all agree that soldiers defending America’s interests abroad shouldn’t have additional, unnecessary worries about their families at home. That’s exactly what’s happening with the movement of Senate Bill 150.

SB 150 is one of the most extreme attacks on transgender health that we’ve seen across the U.S. This bill will ban medically necessary, lifesaving care for transgender youth — care that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association have said is essential for some youth. It is care provided by the military that will no longer be accessible if SB 150 is allowed to become law.

This bill will impact our troops’ mental health, professional development and mission success significantly. The number of transgender children and teenagers receiving care in the U.S. military health system increased nearly 400% last decade. We owe it to our military families to provide appropriate, quality health care to their children. SB 150 abandons this commitment to our troops.

While U.S. troops put their lives on the line, defending the promises of a Constitution that protects the right to the pursuit of happiness, our children here at home are being threatened with erasure by the Kentucky General Assembly. People of all gender identities deserve civil and human rights, including the right to high-quality, affordable, and nonjudgmental health care, as well as accurate information about their health care options. This harmful legislation denies our trans youth the opportunity to thrive as their authentic selves and removes access to life-saving care.

How can we fight overseas effectively and safely when our families back home are under attack? If our own elected leaders are working to take away our rights while we fight abroad, what are we fighting to protect?

Mental health threats to our LGBTQ+ community and trans kids affect our armed forces members who are deployed or on hardship tours as well. The stresses on deployed soldiers are great, but there is no greater threat to mental health than family emergencies – emergencies that while being deployed, soldiers may not be able to come home and remedy. This kind of added stress can compromise mission readiness and combat preparedness.

Choosing to stay in the armed forces isn’t easy, but I see public service as an honor. Troops sacrifice a lot for a country that we hold dear to our hearts. I’ve been in the service for 25 years. I’ve had tours in Iraq, Kosovo and was active when 9-11 happened. Believe me when I say, I have never witnessed as much dissolution from my soldiers as now with these stateside attacks on American citizens.

This goes beyond LGBTQ+ families. This affects not just the families that have trans children but the entire unit. We are all a family, and we support each other. We can’t protect our most vulnerable, when systems in place at their schools and hospitals are turned against them and their parents.

Kentucky is a place where many service members see an opportunity to advance their careers by being stationed at Fort Knox or with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. I’ve had colleagues tell me that legislation like SB 150 could impede their professional advancement as they avoid these assignments for fear their families would not only be denied potential care, but risk exposure to stigma and shame for just trying to live their lives authentically.

It’s baffling to realize that soldiers would now prefer to remain on overseas assignments, rather than return to Kentucky, so that their families might be safer.

Governor Beshear has vetoed SB 150. That means Kentuckians have one last chance to stop it. Military members across the globe are watching what will happen in this final hour, when lawmakers are asked one last time to do the right thing and stop a veto override.