Louisiana is on the verge of enacting three anti-LGBTQ+ laws: one banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors, a “don’t say LGBTQ+” law restricting classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, and one that would let teachers ignore students’ chosen pronouns and out those students to their parents.
The state’s Senate approved all three pieces of legislation Monday. The House, which has already passed them, just has to concur with amendments made in the Senate, and that is expected Tuesday. They will then go to Gov. John Bel Edwards for his signature or veto.
Edwards is a Democrat, albeit a rather conservative one. He let an anti-trans sports bill become law last year without his signature — that happens once a certain period of time has elapsed — because, he said, he knew his veto would be overridden. He had vetoed a similar bill in 2021.
He has raised concerns about this year’s spate of anti-LGBTQ+ and specifically anti-trans legislation but hasn’t said what action he will take. “Members of [the transgender] community believe they’re being attacked for who they are,” Edwards said at a press conference in May, according to the Louisiana Illuminator. “Members of the trans community are much more likely than other young people to have suicidal ideation or attempts or to actually be successful. These kinds of bills do not tend to help with that. … And in fact, they aggravate that situation and then cause it to be worse.”
The Senate Monday passed House Bill 466, the “don’t say LGBTQ+” legislation, and House Bill 81, the pronoun measure, with a two-thirds majority, the proportion that would be required to override a veto, reports Louisiana newspaper The Advocate (no relation to this publication). However, when the House initially passed them, the vote didn’t reach the two-thirds level, so legislators might not have the votes to override a veto by Edwards. But the gender-affirming care ban, House Bill 648, passed with two-thirds majorities in both chambers.
HB 648 would ban hormone treatment, puberty blockers, and gender-affirming surgery for the purpose of gender transition for people under 18. Those already on hormones or puberty blockers would have six months to taper off. Health care workers who violate the law would have their licenses revoked and could be sued. Minors already need parental permission for this care.
Legislators introduced the bill even though there are few young people in Louisiana receiving this care, which is endorsed by every major medical association, and genital surgery is almost never performed on minors. Its lead sponsor, Republican Rep. Gabe Firment, has counterfactually called gender-affirming care experimental and denounced opponents of his bill as “radical transgender activists.”
The bill was at one point killed by a Senate committee, but after a push from right-wing groups, it was revived and approved by another Senate committee, then the full Senate. Republican Sen. Fred Mills broke with his party to cast the deciding vote when the first committee quashed it, and he spoke against the bill again Monday, noting he’d been widely criticized for his stance.
“I want to tell you, this is probably one of the biggest blessings in my life, this controversy. I’ve been attacked nationwide, but I don’t hate those people... they’re passionate about their issue,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “The people that contacted me throughout the United States ... thanking me that maybe we prevented a suicide [with the committee vote], I will let you all know I love you, and I hope things work out for you.” He read from some supportive letters he’d received.
But Republican Sen. Jay Morris, presenting the bill in that chamber, pushed back on Mills’s remarks, Louisiana’s Advocate reports. “It’s unfortunate [that Mills received threats] ... I care about that, and I condemn that with all my heart,” Morris said. “But we can’t let someone sending nasty emails or putting something on social media change how we’re going to handle legislating.”
HB 466, the “don’t say LGBTQ+” bill, bans any discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools in kindergarten through 12th grade, whether in classrooms or extracurricular activities. It also bars teachers and other school employees from mentioning their own orientation or identity.
HB 81 says teachers must use a student’s birth name and the pronouns for the sex the student was assigned at birth unless they have written permission from the child’s parents. Even if they have permission, any teacher who has religious or moral objections to using the chosen pronouns can opt out of doing so.
The Human Rights Campaign denounced the bills and urged Edwards to veto them. “From doctors’ offices to classrooms, Louisiana’s extremist legislators show no shame in assaulting the freedoms of those different from them,” Cathryn Oakley, HRC state legislative director and senior counsel, said in a press release. “Blocking teachers from providing the safe and inclusive spaces that LGBTQ+ youth so desperately need is an unconscionable act. There is absolutely nothing inappropriate about being LGBTQ+ or in acknowledging LGBTQ+ issues and people. Furthermore, denying transgender and nonbinary youth access to best-practice, lifesaving medical care puts their lives in very real danger.
“These bills are a desperate and cruel effort by radical politicians in Louisiana to marginalize and erase the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender youth. The Human Rights Campaign strongly condemns these discriminatory bills and calls on Gov. Bel Edwards to veto them.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana issued a statement against the gender-affirming care ban, saying, “We are deeply disturbed that Louisiana lawmakers circumvented democratic legislative processes and ignored overwhelming expert medical testimony, forcing through this unjust bill that is a dangerous intrusion on the rights and lives of Louisiana families. Our state should be a safe place to raise a child, and this law threatens to deny transgender youth the safety and dignity they deserve. This extreme government overreach harms everyone in our state, especially transgender Louisianans, and we all deserve better. We call on Governor John Bel Edwards to veto this harmful, discriminatory bill and protect the rights of transgender youth and their families.”
Pictured, from left: Sen. Jay Morris and Rep. Gabe Firment