BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana is poised to become the latest state to enact laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community, after the Republican-controlled Legislature on Tuesday sent a package to the Democratic governor that includes a ban on gender-affirming care for minors.
The Legislature also overwhelmingly passed Louisiana’s version of a “Don’t Say Gay” bill and a measure outlining pronoun usage for students.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards opposes the legislation but has not said whether he would veto the bills. Republicans hold a veto-proof majority in the Legislature, and the bills passed largely along party lines. Last year, Edwards chose not to block a Louisiana law banning transgender athletes from participating in women's and girls' sports competitions, saying it was clear a veto would be overridden.
Debate in the Legislature over the transgender care measure was marked by misinformation, religious arguments, hours of emotional testimony from the LGBTQ+ community, and a dramatic resurrection of a bill once presumed dead. It echoed what is happening in many statehouses across the country, as bills targeting the transgender community have topped conservative agendas. Louisiana's measure would take effect Jan. 1.
This year alone, more than 525 anti-LGBTQ+ bill have been introduced in 41 states, according to data collected by the Human Rights Campaign. Among that legislation, more than 220 measures specifically target transgender youths, the organization found. On Tuesday, HRC declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S., releasing a guidebook containing resources to help people relocate to states with stronger LGBTQ+ protections.
Republicans maintain that they are trying to protect children by banning care that can include puberty blockers, hormone treatment and surgery. Opponents argue it would do the opposite, leading to heightened risks of stress, depression and suicidal thoughts among an already vulnerable group.
Gender-affirming care for transgender children has been available in the United States for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations.
Yet at least 19 states have now enacted laws restricting or banning it for transgender minors: 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 temporarily blocked portions of Florida's new law Tuesday in a ruling narrowly focused on three children whose parents sued.
Federal judges have blocked enforcement of laws in Alabama and Arkansas, and Oklahoma has agreed to not enforce its ban while opponents seek a temporary court order blocking it. Several other states are considering bills this year to restrict or ban care. A proposed ban is pending before Missouri’s governor.
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 written statement 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 broadly ban K-12 public school employees in Louisiana from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom. It is similar to a law enacted in Florida last year that critics dubbed, “Don’t Say Gay.” So far, three other states — Alabama, Arkansas and Iowa — have enated similar similar “Don’t Say Gay” laws, according to HRC.
Additionally, Louisiana lawmakers 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 a teacher can override the parent’s request “if doing so would violate the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Other statehouses across the U.S. are considering similar legislation, which would formally allow or require schools to deadname transgender students or could out them to their parents without consent. Deadnaming refers to using the name a transgender person used prior to transitioning.
By SARA CLINE Associated Press
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