Louisiana Republicans passed a slate of three bills targeting the LGBTQ community. They are expected to arrive on the desk of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in the coming days.
While Edwards has expressed opposition to the bills, Republicans appear to have the votes to override a veto, meaning that if Edwards does not want to mount a political fight over LGBTQ rights, he could also allow the bills to become law without his signature, as he did with a ban on transgender athletes last year.
The most prominent of the bills is a measure to ban transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming treatments meant to treat gender dysphoria, including puberty blockers, hormones, or surgical interventions, the latter of which are rarely performed on minors.
The ban on gender-affirming care appeared to be dead last month after Sen. Fred Mills (R-New Iberia, the chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, voted with Democrats to reject the bill when it came before the committee.
Mills said that his decision had been heavily influenced by a 2022 Louisiana Health Department study on gender-affirming health care.
It found that no gender-affirming surgical procedures had been performed on any minors enrolled in Medicaid in the state between 2017 and 2021, and that hormone and puberty blockers were rarely prescribed to transgender-identifying minors in Louisiana during that same period.
National conservative pundits — who have deemed opposition to LGBTQ visibility, transgender rights, and “wokeness” as essential to their party’s brand — were outraged at Mills’ defection, and promised political retribution.
Mills’ fellow Republicans caved to pressure from those voices to revive the bill.
Senators then used a rare procedural maneuver to recommit the bill to a different committee, allowing it to pass on a 29-10 vote, reports the Associated Press.
The bill now heads back to the House, which previously overwhelmingly approved the ban on gender-affirming care. If the House concurs with the Senate amendments, the measure will head to Edwards’ desk.
Opponents of the ban have argued that most mainstream medical organizations support gender-affirming care for transgender minors, and have asserted that blocking such treatments will increase suicidality among transgender youth.
“When people, especially our youth, talk about suicide, that’s not something that you take lightly,” Sen. Gerald Boudreaux (D-Lafayette) said, according to the AP. “You wait too long and you are at the funeral home.”
But supporters say minors — even with parental permission, as is required by current law — shouldn’t be permitted to access treatments that could have long-term detrimental effects on their health.
“This isn’t complicated. Kids should not have access to permanent medical procedures in order to affirm an identity that they might outgrow,” Sen. Jeremy Stine (R-Lake Charles) said.
In addition to the ban on gender-affirming care, the Senate approved a Florida-style law prohibiting classroom discussions, lessons, or extracurricular activities touching on LGBTQ-related topics in K-12 schools. When broached, such topics must be done so in a narrow and age-appropriate manner. They must not deviate “from state content standards or curricula developed or approved by public school governing authorities.”
The third bill approved by Republicans is a pronoun restriction bill that requires teachers to use pronouns matching a student’s assigned sex at birth, regardless of how they identify, unless they receive parental permission beforehand.
However, teachers may refuse to use gender-affirming pronouns if doing so would violate their personal moral or religious beliefs.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, 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,” said Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s state legislative director and senior counsel.
Republicans have embraced opposition to LGBTQ rights, as well as public demonstrations or depictions of LGBTQ identity, as essential to their party’s identity. This year, lawmakers in nearly every state — primarily Republicans — have introduced more than 530 anti-LGBTQ bills, with 74 being enacted into law.
Of those 530 bills, 125 have specifically sought to outlaw gender-affirming care for minors, with another 100 seeking to censor LGBTQ-related discussions, curricula, or books in schools.
By comparison, only 315 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in 2022, with only 29 being enacted into law — underscoring the greater emphasis that has been placed on culture-war issues in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.
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