Louisiana House approves bill to let teachers reject student’s pronouns

Bill follows conservative trend of LGBTQ+ backlash

By: - May 8, 2023 7:00 pm
A student at Ben Franklin High School in New Orleans holds a sign that reads God wants acceptance, Galatians 3-28 at a school walkout event marking Transgender Day of Visibility.

A student at Ben Franklin High School in New Orleans holds a sign in support of her classmates Friday, March 31, 2023, at a school walkout event marking Transgender Day of Visibility. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

House lawmakers approved a bill Monday that would back school employees who refuse to use a student’s chosen name or pronouns that differ from the ones given to them at birth. It would also allow a teacher to overrule a parent’s approval for their child to go by a different name.

House Bill 81, sponsored by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, passed the chamber in a 61-33 vote. 

Under the proposal, school employees or volunteers would not be allowed to use a student’s preferred pronoun that differs from the gender listed on their birth certificate unless a student’s parent provides written permission. Even if a parent does provide permission, the bill would allow a teacher to ignore it based on religious or moral reasons.

State Rep. Raymond Crews stands at podium on House floor
State Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, fields questions on the Louisiana House floor regarding his anti-trans pronouns bill. (Photo credit: Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)

“This is a culture war bill designed to impose one group’s values over the rest,” Rep. Joe Marino, I-Gretna, said. “This is not a parents’ rights bill unless the parents believe the same thing Rep. Crews does.” 

The bill makes no allowances for teachers who might hold a different religious or moral position and want to side with transgender students who get no support from their parents. Crews, the bill’s sponsor, said that only teachers who refuse to “participate in the deception” are protected under the legislation.

Crews did accept an amendment from Speaker Pro Tempore Tanner Magee, R-Houma, to address a potential situation in which a teacher chooses to overrule a parent’s permission. The amendment would allow the parent to request that their child be moved to a different teacher.

Fielding questions on the House floor, Crews admitted that no parents or teachers asked him to introduce the bill. Most of the letters in opposition that he has received have come from outside of his northeast Louisiana district, he said.

‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill gains traction in Louisiana

Baton Rouge Rep. Barbara Freiberg, the only Republican who spoke against the measure, said the issue would be better served if it were left up to local school boards. 

Rep. Tammy Phelps, D-Shreveport, called the legislation one of the “most discriminatory bills we’ve had in a while.”

Crews said he just wants parents to “be in the know” if their children are going to school using a different name or pronoun than the one they were given at birth. 

His bill also allows any individual aggrieved by a violation to seek civil relief through a lawsuit. 

The legislation is similar to one still pending on the House floor by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton. It would create a version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law in Louisiana but with much stricter provisions.


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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi.