Louisiana is about to follow other states by enacting laws that target the LGBTQ+ community. The Republican-controlled Legislature last Tuesday sent a package to the Democratic governor that includes a ban on gender-affirming care for minors. The Legislature also passed Louisiana’s version of a “Don’t Say Gay” bill and a measure outlining pronoun usage for students. Although the state’s Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards does not support the bill, he has not yet said whether he will veto the legislation. However, the Republican party has a veto-proof majority in the Legislature, and the bills passed mostly along party lines. Last year, Edwards did not oppose a Louisiana law that prevents transgender athletes from participating in women and girl’s sports competitions, claiming it was evident a veto would be overridden.
The transgender care measures’ debate was chaotic, with misinformation, religious arguments, hours of emotional testimony from the LGBTQ+ community, and a dramatic resurrection of a bill once thought to be deceased. This echoes what is occurring in statehouses across the US, where bills targeting the transgender community have topped conservative agendas. Louisiana’s measure will take effect on Jan. 1. According to data collected by the Human Rights Campaign, this year alone, more than 525 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in 41 states. Among this legislation, more than 220 measures were aimed specifically at transgender youths. On Tuesday, HRC declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the US and published a guidebook with resources to assist individuals in relocating to states with stronger LGBTQ+ protections.
Republicans contend that they are seeking to safeguard children by prohibiting care that can include hormone treatment, puberty blockers, and surgery. Conversely, critics argue that it would do the opposite, increasing stress, depression, and suicidal ideation among an already vulnerable group. Gender-affirming care for transgender children has been available in the US for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations. Nonetheless, at least 19 states have now passed laws that restrict or ban it for transgender minors, including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, South Dakota, and West Virginia. A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked sections of Florida’s new law in a ruling narrowly focused on three children whose parents sued. Alabama and Arkansas federal judges have blocked the enforcement of laws, and Oklahoma has agreed not to enforce its ban while opponents seek a temporary court order blocking it. Several other states are considering bills this year to restrict or prohibit this care.
Opponents of a Louisiana ban, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, are urging Edwards to veto it. “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,” the organization said in a statement on Monday. “This extreme government overreach harms everyone in our state, especially transgender Louisianans, and we all deserve better.” Another bill passed by the Legislature would prohibit K-12 public school employees in Louisiana from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom. The legislation is similar to a law enacted in Florida last year that critics dubbed, “Don’t Say Gay.” So far, Alabama, Arkansas, and Iowa have passed similar “Don’t Say Gay” laws. Louisiana lawmakers also passed legislation requiring public school teachers to use the pronouns and name that align with a student’s sex assigned at birth. Under the bill, a parent can give written consent for pronouns not consistent with the student’s sex assigned at birth to be used. However, if using them violates the employee’s religious beliefs, the teacher could override the parent’s request.
Statehouses across the US are considering similar legislation, which could officially permit or mandate schools to deadname transgender students or reveal their identity to their parents without consent. Deadnaming refers to using the name a transgender person used before transitioning.