Houma legislator shelves transgender health care bill after strong pushback
BATON ROUGE -- The sponsor of a bill that would place restrictions on transgender youth access to gender-confirming health care shelved the proposal Wednesday amid immense opposition from transgender people, health providers and advocates.
Senate Bill 104, by Sen. Mike Fesi, R-Houma, would have prohibited gender therapy —including certain counseling, hormone treatments and gender-related surgery — for minors unless both parents gave written consent. Fesi said he didn't want youth to "go around the back" of parents to get gender therapy.
But Fesi voluntarily deferred the bill after a long line of people gave emotional testimony against the measure. Chairman Fred Mills, R-Parks, said he had 400 "red cards" indicating people were against the bill.
Opponents, including transgender teens and adults, said the bill would strip their ability to get gender-confirming procedures in cases where one parent is not a part of their life. Providers of transgender teens said the bill would restrict their ability to give care.
The legislation comes as Republican lawmakers across the country push legislation aimed at limiting access to treatment or sports for transgender youth. Several other bills are pending in the Louisiana Legislature, including a House bill by Rep. Gabe Firment that would ban the type of treatments Fesi's bill targeted outright. Rep. Beryl Amedee, R-Houma, and Senate President Pro Tem Beth Mizell, R- Franklinton, also filed bills to ban transgender athletes from participating in girls' or women's sports at public schools.
It's difficult to see how any of the bills become law, even if they gain support in the GOP-led Legislature. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has said he won't back the bills aimed at transgender people. It takes the two-thirds support of each chamber to override a gubernatorial veto, which is exceedingly rare even though Republicans hold a supermajority in the Senate and a near-supermajority in the House.
The NCAA Board of Governors said recently it will only host championship events in states that are "safe, healthy and free of discrimination." The board didn't spell out what it meant specifically, but the Final Four is slated to be held in New Orleans in 2022, prompting some to worry the bills in the Louisiana Legislature could thwart that event if passed.
Fesi said he brought the bill because he thinks "parents need to be involved" and that children are being "brainwashed" on YouTube and other social media platforms.
Health providers testified of the dire consequences faced by transgender youth when they're unable to get support, including mental health issues and suicide.
Melissa Flournoy, a former state legislator who now chairs the board of Louisiana Progress Action, said she knows several young transgender people who "were fully aware of their status early in their lives." She said the bill would have injected unneeded government involvement into the private affairs of families.
"This legislation is completely unnecessary," she said. "If young people live at home and are on their parents insurance, the parents are involved."
August Steinkamp, a transgender man who attends LSU, said he had gender-confirming surgery as a minor to "stop suffering," saying the bill would have prolonged the suffering and increased suicide rates in transgender youth.
"I'm who this bill would have targeted if introduced five years ago," Steinkamp said. "Without pushback from our government, being transgender is hard enough."