Ban on trans youth healthcare revived in Louisiana Senate

(Ted Eytan/CC BY-SA 2.0 via MGN)
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 8:18 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 1, 2023 at 8:22 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (Louisiana Illuminator) - On the first day of Pride month, the Louisiana Senate revived a proposed ban on gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth that was killed a week ago.

The Senate voted 26-12 to recommit House Bill 648 by Rep. Gabe Firment, R-Pollock, from the Health and Welfare Committee to the Judiciary A Committee, essentially reviving what was a dead bill. The motion was made by Sen. Stewart Cathey, R-Monroe, a conservative lawmaker who had conferred with Firment earlier in the day.

The bill was shot down in the Health and Welfare Committee last week, with committee Chairman Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, joining Democrats in opposing the bill.

Mills was met with immediate backlash from Republicans within the legislature as well as national conservative talking heads. Ultra-conservative lawmakers hatched a plan the next day to revive the ban, telling reporters they would either discharge the bill from the Senate Health and Welfare Committee or add provisions of the ban to a bill in the House.

Mills spoke out against discharging the bill, saying it sets a bad precedent. The senator said he respected committee decisions to kill his bills in the past and worked to bring back better versions.

Peyton Rose Michelle, executive director of Louisiana Trans Advocates, condemned the Senate’s move late Thursday afternoon in a statement to the Illuminator.

“Recommitting HB 648 out of the Health Committee is a disrespect to the process as this bill is obviously a healthcare bill,” Michelle said. “The Senators best equipped to make the decision on this bill have done so, and they’ve denied it. I hope Louisianans can see through these disgusting tactics.”

The Senate also voted Thursday to suspend its rules to schedule a Senate Judiciary A meeting for 1 p.m. Friday, giving opponents of Firment’s bill little time to put together a defense.

In an interview, Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, said the bill is considered relevant to Judiciary A because similar legislation has been met with federal lawsuits.

Gender-affirming care is a catch-all term for medical treatments given to people to align their physical bodies with their identified gender. Gender-affirming care is sought by transgender people, who identify as a gender different from their sex assigned at birth, and cisgender people, who identify as their assigned sex.

Treatments are individualized to the patient. Some young patients will be prescribed fully reversible puberty blockers, giving the patient time to consider their options.

Later, hormone treatments might be given to young people so they can go through puberty in a way that allows their body to change in ways that align with their gender identity. These treatments are partially reversible.

Minors typically are not provided with surgical procedures such as top surgery, which adds or removes breast tissue, or bottom surgery, which constructs a vagina or penis. While much of the conversation on Firment’s bill has centered on these procedures, such surgeries are not recommended for minors, according to Dr. Kathryn Lowe, a pediatrician who represents the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on LGBTQ+ health and wellness.

Firment’s bill faces a compressed timeline as the legislative session must end no later than 6 p.m. June 8.

If the bill is approved by the Judiciary A committee, which is likely, it still has to receive Senate backing as well as House approval of any amendments added on the Senate side before the legislature adjourns. If not acted upon immediately, the legislation faces a constitutional provision that requires three-quarters of each chamber to approve calling up a bill for a vote in the last 72 hours of a session.

The Senate’s unusual move to discharge the bill comes after another committee advanced two pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation earlier Thursday afternoon.

House Bill 81 by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, would prohibit school employees from using transgender students’ preferred names or pronouns unless they have parental approval. House Bill 466 by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, would prohibit the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools.

Both were reported favorably from the Senate Education Committee on a 3-1 vote, with committee Chairman Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, being the sole member opposed.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Greg LaRose for questions: Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

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