Home A project of States Newsroom
‘Zombie bill’ to ban trans youth healthcare advances from Louisiana Senate committee


‘Zombie bill’ to ban trans youth healthcare advances from Louisiana Senate committee

Jun 02, 2023 | 4:33 pm ET
By Piper Hutchinson
‘Zombie bill’ to ban trans youth healthcare advances from Louisiana Senate committee
A student at Ben Franklin High School in New Orleans holds a transgender Pride sign during a walkout event at the school Friday, March 31, 2023, to mark Transgender Day of Visibility. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

In a hurried, six-minute hearing Friday with no Democrats present, a Louisiana Senate committee advanced a ban on gender affirming healthcare for trans youth that had been shot down last week but revived in an unusual procedural move. 

House Bill 648 by Rep. Gabe Firment, R-Pollock, is similar to proposals filed in at least 17 other states, including every other one on the Gulf Coast. An Associated Press analysis found most of these bills have strong similarities to model legislation right-wing organizations have put forward. 

Firment’s bill failed May 25 in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. Senate members voted Thursday to discharge the bill from that committee and assign it to Senate Judiciary A, which typically handles a broad list of matters involving criminal justice and civil court proceedings.  

Democrats on Judiciary A — Sens. Jimmy Harris of New Orleans, Cleo Fields of Baton Rouge and Jay Luneau of Alexandria — boycotted the meeting. Republicans approving the bill were Sens. Barrow Peacock of Bossier City, Jeremy Stine of Lake Charles, Heather Cloud of Turkey Creek and Robert Mills of Minden. 

“We gave this bill a lengthy and fair hearing in Health and Welfare,” Luneau said in a statement to the Illuminator. “I can say that with authority as I serve on that committee. The bill is not germane to Jud A, a committee I also serve on.” 

In an interview, Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, said Firment’s bill is relevant to Judiciary A because similar legislation has been met with federal lawsuits. 

Also notably absent from the hearing were the dozens of LGBTQ+ rights advocates who usually testify against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. 

Peyton Rose Michelle, executive director of Louisiana Trans Advocates, said she was concerned for their safety. 

“Do not come to the capitol today,” Michelle wrote in an email to supporters. “This zombie bill is being heard in Judiciary A today at 1 p.m., but it’ll be a physically unsafe environment for queer folks.” 

In an interview, Michelle expressed disappointment that the committee’s Democrats did not attend the meeting. 

“I personally would have preferred the Democrats to show up and do their jobs and say what they were elected to do. But I guess I would say I know the levels of unsafety extended to them, and so I understand why they didn’t show up either,” Michelle said. 

Luneau confirmed in a statement to the Illuminator that he has received threats. He made the motion to kill Firment’s bill in the Health and Welfare Committee last week. 

The Judiciary A Committee adopted amendments to the bill that would change its effective date from July 1 to Jan. 1, 2024, and extended the deadline to take trans youth off their course of treatment from the end of this year to the end of next year. Doctors who specialize in gender-affirming care for trans youth say there is no amount of time that would make ending care safe.

Other than these amendments, committee members endeavored to keep discussion limited to the provisions of the bill related to legal remedies for violating the ban, rather than the ban itself. 

No members of the public testified in support or opposition of the bill, though several people filed cards signaling their views. 

Gender-affirming care is a catch-all term for medical treatments given to people to align their physical bodies with their identified gender. It is sought by transgender people, who identify as a gender different from their sex assigned at birth, as well cisgender people, who identify as their assigned sex.

 Treatments are individualized to the patient. Some young patients will be prescribed fully reversible puberty blockers, giving the patient time to consider their options. 

Later, hormone treatments might be given to young people so they can go through puberty in a way that allows their body to change in ways that align with their gender identity. These treatments are partially reversible. 

Minors typically are not provided with surgical procedures such as top surgery, which adds or removes breast tissue, or bottom surgery, which constructs a vagina or penis. While much of the conversation on Firment’s bill has centered on these procedures, such surgeries are not recommended for minors, according to Dr. Kathryn Lowe, a pediatrician who represents the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on LGBTQ+ health and wellness. 

Firment’s bill faces a compressed timeline as the legislative session must end no later than 6 p.m. June 8. 

The bill still has to receive Senate backing as well as House approval of the new amendments before the legislature adjourns. If not acted upon immediately, the legislation faces a constitutional provision that requires two-thirds of each chamber to approve calling up a bill for a vote in the last 72 hours of a session.

Julie O’Donoghue contributed reporting to this article