A bill to ban access to health care for transgender youth killed by a legislative panel last week was revived Thursday by the Louisiana Senate, which means one of the most divisive issues facing the Legislature is still up for debate.
House Bill 648, sponsored by state Rep. Gabe Firment, R-Pollock, was sidelined by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee last week on a mostly party-line vote. Committee Chairman Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, sided with Democrats in voting to kill the measure. In the days since, conservative lawmakers supporting that bill have negotiated to restore it.
A committee vote to involuntarily defer a bill usually signals death, but legislative rules do allow bills to be removed from a committee and sent to the Senate floor or to a different panel. The Senate voted 26-12 late Thursday to revive the bill and send it to the Judiciary A Committee.
That was a win for groups who have backed Firment's bill, including some national interest groups, who say the measure would prevent children and teenagers from being wrongly subjected to life-altering procedures at a young age. The measure would ban most gender-affirming procedures including surgeries, puberty blockers and hormones.
LGBTQ+ people say those treatments are already extremely rare in Louisiana and that banning them would further ostracize a vulnerable population of youth. They have also pointed to misleading claims and statistics touted by supporters.
In an interview after the vote, Senate President Page Cortez said he voted to revive the bill because of its potential to spark litigation, citing examples from other states.
"A lot of the laws that have been passed have been subject to lawsuits," he said. "The question was, 'Wouldn't it be wise for Judiciary A to decide if this breaches some sort of law relative to parental rights, or to physician-patient confidentiality?'"
He said that negotiations over the state's budget, which were a focus of House floor debate on Wednesday and Thursday, did not overlap with discussions about reviving Firment's bill.
Before supporters of the bill succeeded in having it relocated to the judiciary committee, they tried various other means — twice amending Senate bills on the House floor to include elements of the ban or to block some of Mills' legislation from becoming law unless the trans health care bill became law, too.
Mills, who is not running for re-election, faced ferocious backlash for his vote. He called on his colleagues Thursday to vote down the motion to revive the bill, which was put forward by Sen. Stewart Cathey, R-Monroe.
"Because of the committee process, I think we should not do this," Mills said.
The bill is part of an increase in legislation targeting LGBTQ+ people in Louisiana and nationally. Also on Thursday, the Senate Education Committee voted to advance two bills that would limit discussions of gender and sexuality in schools.
The bills advanced on the first day of Pride Month — a national holiday established in 1999 to honor the 1969 Stonewall uprising in Manhattan, New York, when police raided the Stonewall Inn and arrested LGBTQ+ patrons, sparking days of riots.