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Lawmakers adjourn veto override session in 1 day, passing ban on gender-affirming care for minors

The Louisiana State Capitol. March 2021.
Phoebe Jones
The Louisiana State Capitol. March 2021.

Louisiana lawmakers passed a ban on gender-affirming health care for minors during a single-day veto override session on Tuesday. The controversial bill was the primary driver of and and the only bill that ultimately passed from the session.

Veto overrides are rare in Louisiana — this is only the fourth one in 50 years. Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority vote from lawmakers in both chambers. The ban ultimately passed the House with a 75-23 vote and passed the Senate with a 28-11 vote.

Two other bills targeting LGBTQ+ youth died in the House on Tuesday. One of those bills would have required parent permission for students to use preferred pronouns different from their assigned sex at birth. Another bill would have banned discussion of gender and sexual orientation in all K-12 classrooms. Critics commonly refer to this as a “Don’t Say Gay'' bill.

Lawmakers’ decision to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto to pass the gender-affirming health care ban mirrors a trend in other Republican states to restrict youth access to gender-affirming care, which often includes hormone therapy and can include reassignment surgeries.

All of Louisiana’s neighboring states have passed similar bans. Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming care was struck down last month by a federal judge, who found the ban unconstitutional.

Louisiana Republicans have heavily advocated for a veto override session since Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed the gender-affirming care ban last month.

Proponents of the ban argue it is a necessary measure to protect children. They have repeatedly described gender-affirming treatment as a “mutilation” of children’s bodies and have said it is “experimental.”

“If we don’t pass this bill, Louisiana will become the destination for children across the entire south to undergo these life-altering, irreversible medical experiments,” said the bill’s author Rep. Michael “Gabe” Firment, R-Pollock.

Most major medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, support gender-affirming care.

Opponents of the ban say they worry about its effect on youth mental health. And they have pointed out how rarely these procedures occur in the state. From 2017 to 2021, there were no gender-affirming surgical procedures performed on minors in Louisiana, according to a Louisiana Department of Health study published in 2022.

In his veto letter on House Bill 648, Edwards said it is “unfathomable” that he would sign a bill into law that “categorically denies health care for children and families based on propaganda and misinformation generated by national interest groups.”

The ban was originally blocked in the Senate Health and Welfare committee in the regular session earlier this year. Chairman Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, joined four Democrats in opposition.

Republicans across the state and nation slammed Mills’ vote. Louisiana lawmakers voted to revive the bill and send it to a different Senate committee. It quickly passed from that committee and the Senate. The bill had received a two-thirds vote from lawmakers in both chambers during the regular session, too.

The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024. It gives minors one year to wean off any gender-affirming medicine and treatment like puberty blockers and hormone therapies.

The House also voted to override two other vetoes on Tuesday. Those included an anti-vaccination bill that would have required schools to send out information to parents about immunization exemptions when communicating about vaccine requirements. The other bill would have prohibited individuals and governments from certain countries from owning or leasing agricultural land in the state.

Both of those bills were shot down in the Senate. Lawmakers did not override any of Edwards’ other vetoes.

Molly Ryan is a political reporter and covers state politics from the Louisiana Capitol.

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