Mon, Jun 5, 2023 3:08 PM
By SARA CLINE, Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A controversial bill — that at one point had been presumed dead — banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender youths in Louisiana was passed by the Senate on Monday and is likely to reach the governor's desk in the coming days.
The bill, which passed in the Senate mainly along party lines, 29-10, would prohibit hormone treatments, gender-affirming surgery and puberty-blocking drugs for transgender minors in Louisiana. The measure will go back to the House, which has already overwhelmingly passed the legislation, to approve of minor amendments, including pushing back the effective date of the law to Jan. 1, 2024.
If the House concurs, the legislation would be sent to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who opposes it. Edwards has not said whether he would veto the bill. If he does, lawmakers could convene a veto session to try to override his decision. Last session, Edwards chose not to block a law banning transgender athletes from participating in women and girls sports competitions in Louisiana, although he successfully vetoed a similar measure the year before.
The proposed gender-affirming care ban gained national attention last month when a Senate committee voted to kill the bill. Longtime Republican state Sen. Fred Mills was the tiebreaker vote, opposing the legislation citing that he “relied on science and data and not political or societal pressures.”
In a year when restrictions and prohibitions on gender-affirming care for transgender youths has been a priority on conservative agendas — with at least 18 states enacting laws limiting or banning the medical care, including all three of Louisiana’s bordering states — the rejection of the controversial legislation did not go unnoticed.
In the days after the vote to defer the bill, state Attorney General Jeff Landry, who is a GOP gubernatorial candidate this year, and the Republican Party of Louisiana put pressure on Republicans to resurrect the bill. In a rare procedural move, the Senate voted to recommit the controversial bill to a different committee, successfully giving it a second chance at life.
Additionally, anti-transgender activists took to social media, including conservative political commentator Matt Walsh, who tweeted to his nearly 2 million followers that Mills would regret his decision and that it is “the biggest mistake of his political career.”
Mills, who is term-limited, told lawmakers on the Senate floor Monday that despite his family, businesses and himself being harassed for his decision at the Capitol, he was proud of his vote and called it a “defining moment” in his legislative career.
"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,” Mills said. “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.”
Opponents of the ban, argue that gender-affirming care, which is supported by every major medical organization, can be lifesaving for someone with gender dysphoria, which is distress over gender identity that doesn’t match a person’s assigned sex. Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community fear that without the care, transgender children could face especially heightened risks of stress, depression and suicidal thoughts.
“When people, especially our youth, talk about suicide, that’s not something that you take lightly," said Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, a Democrat opposing the bill “You wait too long and you are at the funeral home.”
Proponents of the legislation argue that the proposed ban would protect children from life-altering medical procedures until they are mature enough to make such serious decisions.
“This isn't complicated. Kids should not have access to permanent medical procedures in order to affirm an identity that they might outgrow,” Republican Sen. Jeremy Stine said.
Currently, children in Louisiana need parental permission to receive any gender-affirming health care before they turn 18.