Louisiana lawmakers looking at restricting transgender access to health care, sports

Louisiana Legislators have filed four bills targeting the transgender community

Transgender
Trans Pride flags | Ted Eytan via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Conservative Republicans in the Louisiana Legislature have filed four bills to restrict transgender people’s access to sports and health care in the state.

The legislation mostly targets children and teenagers who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming. It will be debated in the upcoming session that starts April 12.

A few states have adopted new limitations on transgender youth this year. Mississippi and Arkansas have passed new laws that prohibit transgender girls and women from competing in sports leagues. Idaho was the first state to enact such a ban — and its law is currently being challenged in court.

Anti-transgender laws could cost states economic opportunities. When North Carolina passed a law restricting which bathrooms transgender people could use in 2016, the NBA promptly pulled its All-Star Game from Charlotte and moved it to New Orleans. At the time, state officials said Gov. John Bel Edwards’ inclusive policies toward the transgender community helped New Orleans win the event. 

The following is a rundown of the bills that have been filed:

Prohibiting health care for transgender youth (Senate Bill 104 and House Bill 575

If enacted, two bills would ban people under the age of 18 from receiving health care services — including mental health services — related to their gender identity.

The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Fesi, R-Houma, would require people under 18 years old to get permission from their parents before pursuing any medical care — including counseling — related to their gender identity. It would also allow any parent to block health care related to gender identity for a child, even if they weren’t actively involved in a child’s life.

The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Gabe Firment, R-Pollock, prohibits any drug therapy or surgery that would help a transgender person’s appearance align with their gender identity from being prescribed to people under 18 years old — regardless of whether a medical professional or parent agrees with the treatment.

Under this bill, school staff would also be banned from discussing a transgender or gender nonconforming student’s identity with them — and not sharing the substance of that discussion with the student’s parents. Violating the legislation, should it become law, could result in two years in prison or a $10,000 fine.

Dyland Waguespack, with Louisiana Trans Advocates, said such proposals — should they become law — could put transgender children and teenagers at higher risk of suicide and self-harm. Transgender youth are already more likely to hurt themselves and struggle with depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Monday vetoed similar legislation that would have prohibited transgender children and teenagers from receiving certain medical treatments.

Fesi did not respond to a request for comment about his bill.

Banning transgender girls and women from sports (Senate Bill 156 and House Bill 542)  

Two pieces of legislation have been filed that would prohibit transgender women and children from participating in K-12 school and university sports competitions. They would also allow athletes, coaches and other employees to sue if they suffered “harm” as a result of a transgender woman or girl participating in a sports competition. 

The bills are being sponsored by two Republican women lawmakers, Beth Mizell, of Franklinton, and Beryl Amedee, of Houma. Mizell and Amedee are the chair and vice chair of the Louisiana Women’s Caucus. 

Banning transgender girls and women from sports has been a common cause among conservative lawmakers across the country this year. Bills to do so have been introduced in more than 20 states, according to the Associated Press

“This has lots of identical language to bills that we’ve seen in other states. It’s not homegrown legislation,” Waguespack said of the proposals. “It wasn’t drafted or introduced to address any kind of local issue or event. It is making transgender kids’ lives harder for seemingly no reason.”

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association already has a restrictive position that makes it basically impossible for transgender high school students to participate on sports teams, Waguespack said. He’s not aware of a single transgender high school athlete in Louisiana, in large part because of the restrictions, he said.

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association doesn’t allow students who compete on sports teams that don’t match the sex assigned to them at birth, unless they have undergone sex reassignment surgery. 

Even then, the student must have undergone sex reassignment surgery before puberty or have had all sex reassignment surgery available — including genitalia changed — for at least two years. Their gender identity must also be legally changed before they can compete, under the existing high school athletic rules.

Such steps, especially surgery, are often not recommended by medical doctors for transgender children and teenagers. Hormone treatments are typically a preferred medical intervention before adulthood, Waguespack said. Essentially, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association position has enacted a ban on transgender sports participation, he said.

Louisiana Trans Advocates said one high school student who lived Mandeville, Ashton Dalton, was removed from his cross country team because he was a transgender boy competing on the boys running team. Last year, he recorded testimony for lawmakers who were hearing another set of bills banning transgender students from participating in sports.

“I’ve never come out as transgender to my peers because there has never been a need to,” he said in his video testimony last year. “I’ve joined all of these sports and no one questioned me until they looked at my birth certificate.”

“There are bigger issues in this state than whether I should be allowed to run on the boy’s cross country team,” he said.

Dalton would not have necessarily been affected by Mizell and Amedee’s bills, since he is a transgender boy, though the Louisiana High School Athletic Association policy still prohibited him from participation because it applies to all transgender teenagers.

At the university level, the NCAA already allows transgender college athletes to compete in sports. Louisiana university teams typically abide by NCAA policies and rules, but the organization hasn’t been particularly outspoken about fighting back against similar transgender restrictions passed in other states earlier this year.

Mizell could not be reached to talk about her legislation.