Bills targeting LGBTQ+ community in Louisiana head to Gov. John Bel Edwards' desk
Several bills that target the LGBTQ+ community in Louisiana are headed to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk after receiving final passage in the Louisiana House on Tuesday.
House Bill 81 by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, would require parent permission for students to use pronouns that differ from their assigned sex at birth. Teachers could still object to the use of a student’s preferred pronouns on religious grounds.
Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, authored House Bill 466, which critics refer to as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It would prohibit discussion of gender and sexual orientation in all K-12 school classrooms, which goes further than Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill that only prohibits this discussion in K-3 classrooms.
Another bill by Rep. Michael “Gabe” Firment, R-Pollock, would ban gender-affirming health care for trans youth in Louisiana, including hormone therapy and reassignment surgery. It would go into effect Jan. 1, 2024, and would give minors one year to wean off any current gender-affirming medications. The Senate revived House Bill 648 after it was originally blocked in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee with a 5-4 vote. Republican Chairman Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, joined Democrats in opposition.
Mills received backlash from Republican legislators and national conservative figures for his vote. In a speech to the Senate on Monday, Mills asked the public to leave his family alone. He reiterated that no surgical procedures were performed on minors in Louisiana between 2017-2021, and he said he was incredulous that the state would make people wean off medicine they are already taking.
All of those bills passed the House on Tuesday with a veto-proof, two-thirds majority vote. Edwards can still veto the bills, but Tuesday’s vote indicates the Legislature could override a veto.
Edwards has called these bills unnecessary and said he worries about their effect on youth mental health. He has not said whether he will veto the bills. Edwards' staff said in a call that they have no indication of his plan at this time.
Proponents of these bills have repeatedly said they are intended to protect children and will bolster parental rights.
“This bill is not about hate or fear or sexual orientation,” said Firment, author of the gender-affirming health care ban. “It’s not about race or a particular religion or party affiliation. This bill is about protecting children.”
Opponents disagree. Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, said the gender-affirming health care ban will take away a parent’s right to choose what is best for their child. And opponents have argued that all of this legislation will harm the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth.
“This care is safe, and this care is life-saving,” Dr. Clifton Mixon, a pediatric psychologist, said about gender-affirming care for youth in a press conference with LGBTQ+ advocates last week.
LGBTQ+ advocacy group leaders gathered on the steps of the state Capitol last week to speak against the three bills. They expressed disappointment in lawmakers’ decision to advance the bills, but they said they will continue to fight for their rights.
“These legislators are not ignorant of their impact. Not one bill author this session spoke with the LGBTQ community,” said Sarah Jane Guidry, executive director of Forum for Equality, a statewide LGBTQ+ human rights organization. “And yet we see these bills passing from committees after hours of testimony by beautiful, gay, trans and ally Louisianans. We are here today to remind them this is our state, too.”
All of these efforts are part of a larger, nationwide push of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation led by Republicans. Nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country this year, including in Florida where Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for president, signed a gender-affirming care ban into law last month. A federal judge said on Tuesday that Florida’s ban, which also creates obstacles for adults to receive gender-affirming care, is likely unconstitutional.
The fate of this type of legislation is still unclear in Louisiana and across the nation.