Louisiana Senate passes Don’t Say Gay bill and ban on life-saving healthcare for trans kids

A picture of two trans flags waving in an open area.

Louisiana lawmakers have sent a package of anti-LGBTQ+ bills to the Democratic governor for his signature, including a ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth.

The proposed laws, which includes an imitation of Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill, passed through a final vote by the House on Tuesday (6 June).

The bill banning gender-affirming care, House Bill 648, has caused controversy over the past few months after it was originally struck down by a House committee by just one Republican vote.

Pharmacist and Republican senator Fred Mills argued that the bill, which would impose sanctions on those prescribing potentially life-saving healthcare to under-18s, is unnecessary and he trusted physicians to make the right decisions.

“I always, in my heart of hearts, have believed that a decision should be made by a patient and a physician,” he said.

A group of state Republicans reissued the bill for consideration by the senate judiciary, which passed it in a six-minute hearing on 2 June.

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It has since been rushed through the state capitol’s law-making process, passing through a final House vote just four days after it was recommitted.

Governor John Bel Edwards has not explicitly stated whether he intends to sign the new bills into law, but has signalled his opposition to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the past.

HB 648 would effectively ban physically reversible puberty blockers from trans youth by threatening the removal of the medical licences of those who prescribe them, as well as leaving them open to potential lawsuits.

Additionally, it bans gender-affirming surgeries for trans youth, despite no medical organisation operating on those under the age of 15.

In a statement following the bill’s passing, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Louisiana urged governor Bel Edwards to veto the legislation to prevent further harm to the trans community.

“This is a dark day in Louisiana,” the ACLU’s statement said. “Lawmakers have turned their backs on democratic processes, science, parental rights and the health and safety of children.

“Our hearts break for transgender youth in our state who have repeatedly been attacked by their own elected leaders for political gain.”

Republican senator says vote against anti-trans bill was ‘based on the numbers’

After voting against the bill in May, Mills said his decision was based upon his experience as a pharmacist.

Following days of Republican backlash, including from self-described theocratic fascist Matt Walsh, Mills told the press that he didn’t care what his critics think.

“Why should I [vote for the bill]?” he said. “They don’t live in district 22. They don’t have a 337 area code. I didn’t run for office to serve those people.”

Mills explained that, during testimony, he believed claims about child mutilation by anti-LGBTQ+ pundits weren’t represented in statistics published by the Louisiana Health Department in March.

The report found that no gender-affirming procedures were performed on minors under Medicaid – the government healthcare insurers – between 2017 and 2021, and that prescriptions of puberty blockers were also exceedingly rare.

“My decision was based on the numbers,” Mills continued. “All the testimony I heard by the proponents that children are getting mutilated, I didn’t see it in the statistics.”

In a statement following the bill’s revival, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), who had previously commended Mills for his vote, said proponents of the bills “show no shame in assaulting the freedoms of those different from them”.

HRC state legislative director Cathryn Oakley said: “These bills are a desperate and cruel effort by radical politicians in Louisiana to marginalise and erase the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender youth.

“The Human Rights Campaign strongly condemns these discriminatory bills and calls on governor Bel Edwards to veto them.”