BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – The Louisiana Senate revived a bill that had been voted down that looked to ban gender-affirming care for minors. Some Democrats and LGBTQ advocates stayed away from the last-minute hearing out of protest.
On Thursday night, the Senate voted to discharge HB648 out of the Health and Welfare committee where it failed to get enough votes and put it into a different one where they believed it could be passed. The bill had died with a single Republican, Chairman Sen. Fred Mills, voting against the bill. Mills received vast threats and negative comments online from far-right activists after his vote. Members of the legislature had been casting around for a way to bring the bill back this session.
The Senate vote moved it to the Judiciary A committee with claims the civil penalties of the bill made it fair to go there. The three Democratic senators on that committee did not show up for the last-minute hearing.
“But at the end of the day, you can’t lose and then say, ‘I’m going to circumvent this process and I’m going to take it to another committee,’” said State Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge.
The committee had dozens of cards on both sides but did not allow public testimony and only discussed the narrow legal penalties of the bill rather than the health impact of banning gender-affirming care for transgender kids. The bill had a two-and-a-half-hour hearing in the previous committee before it was voted down.
The bill author, State Rep. Gabe Firment, R-Pollock, has made claims that the accredited medical agencies’ standards of care and statistics around gender-affirming care being beneficial are not true. He often would cite discredited information on the subject in his hearings.
On Friday, in the brief hearing, he only explained the legal action that can be brought by anyone who claims to have been damaged by this care should the bill pass.
“It stands to reason that a child harmed or injured by a violation of this law deserves the right to seek justice through the legal system,” Firment said.
LGBTQ advocates told their supporters not to come to the hearing. They said some had been harassed by the supporters of the bill and did not want to subject them to that again.
“Legislators are ignoring the outcry against these harmful and hateful impacts on our community,” said SarahJane Guidry, executive director of Forum for Equality. “Louisianans believe in fairness and treating each other with dignity and respect. No matter what, we will be here to fight against those who seek to distract and divide us.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate as soon as Monday for a vote and will have to go back to the House to concur with the amendments that have been added on on the Senate side. After it passes there, it’ll head to the governor for his decision.