Louisiana advancing wave of anti-LGBTQ bills from 'Don't Say Gay' to library restrictions

Greg Hilburn
Shreveport Times

A wave of anti-LGBTQ bills is gaining momentum in the Louisiana Legislature on their way to inevitable passage with margins in some cases large enough to overturn potential vetoes from Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

As has been the case in other states, the national debate over gender identity is among the marquee culture war issues being debated in the Louisiana Legislature.

Members of the LGBTQ community said they feel under attack.

"It's dangerous to be trans in America," said Gabby D., 18, of Metairie, in an interview with USA Today Network. "There is a wave of hate going on," Gabby D. said.

But supporters of the legislation say the bills are designed to protect children and preserve parental rights. 

On Tuesday, members of the Louisiana House voted 71-24 to pass Republican Pollock Rep. Gabe Firment's House Bill 648 to ban gender affirming medical care for minors.

"Let's protect our kids," Firment said before the bill's overwhelming passage.

An almost identical bill cleared the Texas House on Monday with other states, especially in Republican-controlled Legislature, following suit.

Firment's bill banning gender affirming care would make it illegal for doctors to perform both irreversible procedures such adding or removing breast tissue and prescribing reversible treatments like puberty blockers.

The measure is one of four major anti-LGBTQ bills advancing through the Legislature with little resistance.

Others include:

∎ Senate Bill 7 by Republican Turkey Creek Sen. Heather Cloud to restrict minors' access to public library materials deemed "sexually explicit." Her measure cleared the Senate on a 27-11 vote Monday and now heads to the House for debate.

∎ House Bill 466 by Republican Haughton Rep. Dodie Horton, described by critics as a "don't say gay" bill, restricts the discussion of gender and sexuality in public school classrooms. Horton's bill cleared the full House on a 67-28 and awaits debate in the Senate.

∎ House Bill 81 by Republican Bossier City Rep. Raymond Crews that would require school employees to use the names and pronouns of students on their birth certificates, which LGBTQ people refer to as "dead names," unless they have parental consent. Crews' bill cleared the full House on a 62-32 vote and awaits debate in the Senate.

Cloud said her bill provides common-sense guardrails that many other media platforms provide to parents.

She said the legislation would "empower parents" and enforce their "fundamental right for the upbringing of their children."

But critics of the bill say it creates a level of censorship that could violate the First Amendment and specifically targets the LGBTQ community.

The people who testified in favor of the bill specifically only mentioned books dealing with LGBTQ content: "The Gay BCs"; "My Princess Boy"; and "Gender Queer," listed as the most banned book of 2022 by PENN America, which describes itself as standing "at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression."

At a Louisiana LGBTQ rally on the Capitol steps April 12, 2023, supporters say anti-LGBTQ bills promote hate and violence.

Horton said her bill is focused on shielding children from what she considers inappropriate discussions.

"Our children are to be taught and not indoctrinated or confused," she said while presenting her bill. "This bill has nothing to do with anyone's personal lifestyle. It has to do with protecting our children. Period."

Crews said his bill is intended "to solidify and identify parents' rights to raise their children."

But Alex Davenport, a 22-year-old LSU student, testified as a trans man and noted the high rates of suicide among trans children while speaking about Horton's bill.

More:Louisiana advances anti-LGBTQ school bill critics call 'Don't say Gay'

More than 50% of transgender and non-binary youth in the U.S. seriously considered suicide in the past year, according to a survey from The Trevor Project, a non-profit focused on LGBTQ youth suicide prevention.

"This bill harms children," Davenport said. "It would prevent gay and trans children from being loved and valued."

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1