Nothing that Gabe Firment has done in his 52 years compares to the firestorm that has surrounded the freshman legislator during the past several weeks.
Firment sponsored a measure to ban gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth that thrust him into the middle of perhaps the most controversial issue this legislative session.
The House passed the measure, a Senate committee seemingly killed it and then the full Senate revived it. After final passage by the Legislature on Tuesday, it’s now up to Gov. John Bel Edwards to decide whether to sign or veto the legislation, House Bill 648.
Supporters hailed Firment, while critics bashed him.
He said he’s taking it all in stride.
“Honestly, it’s not a big deal for me,” he said in an interview. “I have a strong faith. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m on the right side of history.”
Firment had never been the center of so much attention before.
He has spent most of his adult life as an insurance adjustor, living in Grant Parish, which is known for not having a single stoplight.
The job, however, put him on the road.
“It was a lot of time away from home, a lot of time spent on really hot roofs in Texas and everywhere else,” he said. “It was not very glamorous. It was physically demanding.”
He now works as a consultant helping home and business owners with disputed insurance claims.
Firment had never held office when what he described as a group of “concerned citizens” asked him to run for the state House.
Active in his church and his community, Firment said he had been praying for two or three years about whether he ought to take on a bigger challenge.
He decided to run because “that’s what God wanted me to do.”
After a friend made him aware of the transgender medical care issue, Firment filed a bill two years ago to stop it. The bill died. He tried and failed again last year.
“I’ve got a son who is 15 and a daughter who is 13,” Firment said. “They’re bombarded by social media and external forces. You can understand how they would be very susceptible to making very bad decisions.”
Critics have said Firment has made his case by relying on people peddling bad information and that the medical profession has debunked his claims.
“It takes away health care from a very small, vulnerable population that needs that care,” said Rep. Joe Stagni, a Republican from Kenner who has bucked his party on this issue.
Firment said he has endured odious comments on Twitter and Facebook but shrugs it off.
“I live so far out in the woods that I don’t think anybody would come looking for me,” he said.