Hate should have no place in Kentucky’s legislature

Painting of vertical pride flag

Below is the Op-Ed I wrote for the Herald Leader that was published on June 2nd 2023. The op-ed was in response to one of my house colleagues comments about the LGBTQ community, in which he called the “LGBTQI+ community is a disease”.

For all of the progress our nation has made in recent decades when it comes to civil rights and acceptance, there is no shortage of reminders that we still have a long way to go when it comes to achieving full equality.

We recently saw yet another example of that when a legislative colleague of mine posted an online video podcast with a headline that referred to the LGBTQIA community as a “disease.”

It was reprehensible, and a revised headline – added after reporters brought the original comment to light – was certainly no better in its attack on Kentucky’s trans community.

We are in the midst of a renewed cruelty in the culture wars that have long been waged in our own state legislature. Laws designed to silence not just LGBTQIA voices but their very presence – principally under the false guise of “protecting” children – have been enacted in recent months, despite loud and consistent pushback from those directly affected, the medical community, and allies like me.

This unnecessary and vicious divisiveness ignores core tenets of my faith, which call on us not to judge one another but to live by the Golden Rule. We spent far too many days this past legislative session in crafting laws to hurt those doing nothing more than enjoying life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If Rep. Calloway and others are so concerned about “diseases,” I would urge them to put more resources into improving actual healthcare disparities. Kentucky is at or near the bottom of so many state rankings when it comes to cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. There are many contributing factors such as smoking, gun violence, and poor maternal and infant healthcare. There are many Kentuckians who still lack reliable clean drinking water or reside in food deserts which are located miles away from affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.

These are the issues that are literally stealing years of life from our parents, grandparents, siblings and children. This is what our focus should be on as representatives for our districts. The residents of Hawaii – which has the nation’s longest life expectancy – live seven years longer on average than those of us here in Kentucky, an appalling disparity.

While I am proud of the many gains our Commonwealth has made over the years, the simple fact remains there is a long journey ahead. I wish more of my legislative colleagues would bring the same energy and passion to making Kentucky a healthier place instead of demonizing those they deem unworthy simply by existing.

A hate-filled climate, promoted by comments such as those espoused by Rep Calloway, is keeping so many from wanting to visit, work and live here, and it’s making many who call Kentucky home, move elsewhere in search of a place more loving, safe, and inclusive.

While it is easy to grow weary by yet another misguided attack on equality, we must stay focused and renew our commitment to the ideals embodied in upcoming Pride Month celebrations.

If you are a member of the LGBTQIA community, I want to re-emphasize that so many Kentuckians and I love you unconditionally, and we will always be with you in this struggle to make Kentucky a better place for all of us, not just some of us.

I promise you this: Together, we will not let hate win.

This op-ed was also printed by Herald Leader.