FRANKFORT — Without providing much notice, the Senate Education Committee on Monday night revisited a bill that would require transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their biological sex or to seek special accommodations, such as a unisex bathroom.
The bill failed to get out of committee Thursday because it did not have the necessary seven votes to be sent to the full Senate.
But the panel approved Senate Bill 76 on an 8-1 vote on Monday night, minutes after Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters he didn't know whether the bill was on the committee's agenda.
Since Friday, the committee had posted its agenda for Monday as "pending." Usually, a committee will list the bills it is going to consider on its agenda so the public will know what it is doing.
The Republican-led Senate is expected to approve SB 76 and send it to the Democratic-controlled House.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Monday night that the House "would look at it" but that he had not thought much about it.
Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said the Senate was "prioritizing discrimination." He called the panel's actions "ludicrous, willful, and mean-spirited" and contended the bill violated federal laws governing equal treatment of male and female students.
He said he did not know the committee would revisit the bill, which is backed by The Family Foundation of Kentucky, until "about 30 seconds before they did it. No agenda of bills was ever posted for public consideration."
Hartman noted that two members were absent from Thursday's committee meeting and three members were not present Monday, including Democrat Gerald Neal and Republican Julie Raque Adams, both of Louisville. They voted against the bill on Thursday.
Senate Education Committee chairman Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, said he listed the committee's agenda as pending "because we had several House bills that were up in the air. We really didn't know what all would be considered."
Told that Stivers said he didn't even know whether the committee would take up SB 76 on Monday night, Wilson said, "Well, that's just one of those things. But this was not a rush job. We heard from opponents of the bill last week, and some members wanted to hear from other students."
Testifying against the bill Monday were David Kelty and his daughter Christina Kelty, a sophomore at Louisville Atherton High School.
They said some students did not feel comfortable going to the bathroom with a transgender student.
"You are putting the rights of transgender students above the rights of other students" said Christina Kelty.
That prompted Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, to say that at one time in America's history, some parents did not want their children in the bathroom with students of a different color.
"I don't think that's the same," David Kelty responded.
The bill stems from a controversy last year at Atherton, where a transgender student who was born male identified as a female and wanted to use the girls' bathrooms and locker rooms.
A controversy arose, and the school eventually adopted a policy of letting students use bathrooms based on their gender identity. The decision was backed by the school's site-based council and a Jefferson County Public Schools appeals committee.
The sponsor of the bill, Sen. C.B. Embry Jr., R-Morgantown, said his measure allows all students to have their privacy.
Henry Brousseau, a 16-year-old transgender student at Louisville Collegiate School, and his mother, Dr. Karen Berg, testified at last week's committee meeting but not at Monday's.
Brousseau told the committee that he has identified himself as a male for three years but has been forced to use girls' bathrooms at times.
Brousseau said Monday he was "extremely disappointed" by the committee's vote.
His mother said they did not know the committee would revisit the bill Monday. "We were just told they sometimes do things like this," Berg said.