Trans advocate ‘upset and disappointed’ that bills had anti-LGBTQ discrimination language amended out

A woman stands out the Supreme Court with an LGBTQ pride flag.

A bill preventing transgender girls from participating in girls sports was the most notable bill with anti-transgender language to win the approval of Louisiana lawmakers this week. However, on Friday, Dylan Waguespack, president of Louisiana Trans Advocates, took note of two other bills that had anti-discriminatory language removed during the legislative process.

A bill establishing the “Foster Youth’s Bill of Rights” and a bill dealing with the licensing and credentialing of Louisiana social workers were both amended along the way to take out language that would have explicitly protected transgender foster children and transgender adults applying to be licensed as social workers. 

Waguespack said he is “upset and disappointed that Louisiana continues to be a place where it is not possible to move protections for transgender people through the Legislature.”

Sen. Regina Barrow (D-Baton Rouge) introduced the “Foster Youth’s Bill of Rights.” It states that foster children age 14-18 have rights that include education, religious freedom, privacy, freedom from discrimination and freedom of expression.

Rep. Jason Hughes (D-New Orleans), who introduced SB 151 on behalf of Barrow when it came up on the Louisiana House Floor Thursday, said the bill is “needed to guarantee youth’s rights while under foster care, which subsequently promotes youths transition into adulthood, as well as achieving positive outcomes.”

“This bill will protect youth’s rights to privacy, provide a safe and stable supportive placement, adequate physical and mental health services, access to family and friends through telephone calls and visits, access to materials for school and to further the youth’s education,” Hughes said. “It will also express youth’s needs and desires about foster care.”

Currently, teenagers in foster care don’t have a bill of rights “that would protect, promote and support the rights of foster youth,” Hughes said.

But, as Waguespack pointed out, Barrow’s original bill included language that specifically protected LGBTQ foster youth “from derogatory comments regarding sexual preference, pronouns, gender identity” and mentioned the right “ to be addressed by the youth’s preferred pronoun.” Barrow replaced that language with language barring “discrimination of any kind on the basis of the child’s or his parent’s race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic, or social origin, property, disability, birth, or other status.”

Similarly, the bill from Sen. Joseph Bouie (D-New Orleans ) which includes rules regarding licensure of social workers passed the Senate and a House committee with language that reads: “No license, certificate, or registration shall be denied any applicant base upon the applicant’s race, religion, creed, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, or differing abilities.” 

But the House didn’t pass the bill Thursday until after Rep. Rick Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge) amended the bill to remove that language.

In explaining the amendment, Edmonds said to the House chamber, “This just amends to the exact language of what is already current (state) statute, and the author’s agreed.”  The amendment was accepted without objection.

Waguespack, referencing an LSU poll that found that statewide, 90 percent of participants said they opposed discrimination against gay and transgender people,  said the Legislature “is not representative of the sort of public opinion in our state when it comes to LGBTQ rights.”

Louisiana doesn’t have laws protecting gay and transgender people from employment discrimination, and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry fought Gov. John Bel Edwards over a past executive order that would prohibit executive branch agencies and private companies working for them from such discrimination. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 last year that such discrimination is barred by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Because federal law prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination already exists, Waguespack said, Louisiana lawmakers taking out language that would explicitly protect transgender people lets “people believe that they’re not protected under the law so that they won’t file a complaint if they do experience that discrimination.”

“It feels like a purposeful effort to misinform our residents across the state, as to what their rights are,” Waguespack said.

Both Barrow’s bill and Bouie’s bill now move to the Senate for concurrence.