Louisiana senator scraps bid to restrict transgender youth

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Facing significant opposition and claims of discrimination, a Louisiana state senator Wednesday shelved his proposal to add new restrictions on transgender youth access to medical care and counseling.

Sen. Mike Fesi, a Houma Republican, pulled his bill from consideration before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee after nearly two hours of testimony from opponents and pushback from several senators.

“Why do we need something that restricts a certain class of kids?” said Sen. Jay Luneau, an Alexandria Democrat.

Fesi’s action ends debate on his legislation for the session.

But lawmakers are proposing other bills to ban transgender athletes from competing on girls sports teams in schools and to restrict transgender youths’ access to health care used in transitioning to match their gender identity. None of the other proposals have yet received a hearing. One of the sports bills is scheduled for a hearing Thursday.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, opposes the measures, calling them “unnecessary and discriminatory.”

Several conservative states have recently passed new restrictions on transgender people. Arkansas and Alabama have passed laws to ban gender confirming treatments for transgender youths.

Fesi’s bill would have required anyone under the age of 18 to receive written consent from both parents to receive gender confirmation counseling, surgery and other medical treatments used by transgender people. If parents disagree, either parent could petition a court seeking either approval or rejection of the treatment. There would be only limited exceptions from two-parent consent.

“I’m just trying to keep our country on the right track to make sure we keep our parents involved,” Fesi said.

More than 400 people — ranging from pediatricians and child psychologists to transgender youth and their parents — filed cards in opposition to the measure, according to Sen. Fred Mills, the St. Martin Parish Republican who chairs the Senate health committee.

No one submitted a card in support of the bill, Mills said.

Fesi raised concerns about puberty blocking treatments causing later medical problems and suggested transgender people sometimes change their minds about their gender identity. But he said his bill was aimed at ensuring children can’t make treatment decisions on their own.

Critics of Fesi’s proposal said it would inappropriately interfere in the decisions of parents, their children and their doctors in cases involving fragile youth who are at higher risks of depression and suicide. They said some children have absentee parents who shouldn’t be allowed to meddle in such decisions. And they said the state already has laws and regulations on the books that involve the custodial parent in medical decisions for their children.

Sen. Rick Ward, a Port Allen Republican, said he believed the parental involvement Fesi wanted is covered in existing law.

“My mother doesn’t accept who I am as a person. Also, she’s very against Western medicine and wouldn’t consent to my use of gender-affirming medication,” said Audrey Ligier, a 17-year-old transgender woman from New Orleans who said she started estrogen treatments last week.

She was joined by her brother and father in opposing the legislation, saying Ligier’s mother has had no involvement in their lives for years and should have no right to make medical decisions.

Edwards and others worry that proposals to add transgender restrictions could bring economic damage to the state, chasing away events like the NCAA’s Final Four basketball tournament scheduled for New Orleans in 2022. The NCAA has declared its support for transgender student athletes and said it will choose locations for its championships where hosts commit to an environment “free of discrimination.”

Several senators struggled in Wednesday’s hearing to understand gender confirmation treatments or the terminology involved.

In an exchange with one parent, Sen. Beth Mizell misidentified as “she” a woman’s child who doesn’t identify as male or female and uses the pronoun “they.” Mizell bristled when she was described as disrespectful.

“It’s new to me,” said Mizell, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican. “I think there is a level of acceptance that is assumed that people of my generation don’t have yet.”

But she added: “We’re trying to understand. Nobody wants to hurt anybody.”

Mizell is sponsoring one of the bills seeking to keep transgender girls from competing on girls sports teams in schools, which is scheduled for a Thursday hearing.


Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.

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