Protesters rallied in the Kentucky Capitol March 2 against anti-trans legislation. (Kentucky Lantern photo by McKenna Horsley)
Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office issued an opinion this week saying guidance by the Kentucky Department of Education on a controversial new anti-trans law is “incorrect.”
Last month, the department issued new guidance on Senate Bill 150 highlighting the use of “or” in a section of the bill, seemingly advising that the new law gives schools a choice between not teaching students in fifth grade and below about topics like human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases or not giving instruction to any students that explores gender identity, expression or sexual orientation.
“Senate Bill 150 does not permit school districts to choose one of its two restrictions on curricula content. The law prohibits not only instruction on human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases for children in grades 5 or below, but also instruction, for any grade level, on gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation,” says the opinion written by Assistant Attorney General Jeremy J. Sylvester and signed by Cameron.
It also says the law “preserves the First Amendment rights of students and teachers.” It clarifies that a previous guidance on issued by the department “correctly interpreted” the law. The opinion states that a school district implementing the law “does not constitute a Title IX violation.”
“Senate Bill 150 simply prevents schools from implementing a policy concerning preferred pronouns that teachers and students must follow under the threat of discipline,” the opinion says. “Senate Bill 150 does not prevent teachers and students from voluntarily referring to students by their preferred pronouns if they choose to do so.”
According to footnotes in the opinion, the Attorney General’s Office claims that Education Commissioner Jason Glass or his attorneys “must know the legislative intent behind Section 2, because he stated repeatedly (at least 8 times) during a recent interview on Kentucky Tonight that the ‘or’ was a ‘mistake.’”
“Daniel Cameron is free to offer all the opinions he wants on how SB 150 should be interpreted and his beliefs on whether it conflicts with federal law,” Glass said in a statement Friday. “However, such matters are not settled by Cameron’s opinion — they are settled in court. Additionally, the General Assembly may provide greater clarity in their statute once they gavel into session to correct any errors they may have included.”
The website for the Office of the Attorney General says opinions “do not have the force of law, but they are persuasive and public officials are expected to follow them.”
Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed the legislation. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky called it “the worst anti-trans bill in the nation.” A federal judge recently sided with the ACLU and temporarily blocked a section of Senate Bill 150 regarding a ban on minors’ gender-affirming care.
After KDE issued guidance regarding the use of “or” in the law, Beshear said “we can’t read a law having different words in it than what is actually on the paper that they vote on and that they ultimately pass.”
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