Clergy Voice Opposition to Anti-Trans Bill & Succeed

“Trans Rights = Civil Rights” by WeNews is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Cynical and frivolous” is how a letter to Louisiana State Legislature signed by nearly 100 bishops and clergy of various faith traditions describes Senate Bill 156. SB 156 would bar transgender students from competing in sports outside of their assigned gender at birth. Clergy representing 12 faith traditions in 24 cities across Louisiana delivered a letter to State Legislators shortly after the July 20th veto override session convened urging them to vote against the override.

The clergy used scripture to demonstrate that the bill is an act of “cruelty” towards “trans children, who are among the most vulnerable young people in our society, the most likely to be depressed, commit suicide and be victimized by peers.” They collectively held that transgender children “deserve our support and love and affirmation as they grow into adults, not our ridicule and scorn.” The letter’s signatories include Lutheran and Episcopalian Bishops, Jewish rabbis, Catholic priests and pastors from the United Methodist, Baptist, United Church of Christ, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Christian Methodist Episcopalian, Unitarian Universalist and other faith traditions. 

The bill, proposed by Senator Beth Mizell, resoundingly passed the Louisiana State House of Representatives and Senate originally, but was vetoed by Governor John Bel Edwards who described it as, “a solution in search of a problem.” A veto override session was called over SB 156 and, on July 20th, the Louisiana State Senate voted 26-12 in favor of the override. 

July 21st, the Louisiana State House of Representatives killed the veto override with a 68-30 vote confirming the governor’s veto of Louisiana SB 156. This comes as a relief to many transgender rights advocates, like Dylan Waguespack, board president of Louisiana Trans Advocates, who said, “Like all students, transgender kids deserve the same chances to learn teamwork, sportsmanship, leadership, and self-discipline, and to build a sense of belonging with their peers.”

Governor John Bel Edwards spoke against SB 156 in no uncertain language stating that the bill “would make life more difficult for transgender children, who are some of the most vulnerable Louisianans when it comes to mental health.” He also made sure to point to the fact that there is no example of transgender participation in sports leading to unfairness, a fact that the bill’s sponsor, Beth Mizell, could not refute. 

Transgender advocates from Real Name Campaign NOLA were forcibly moved in an aggressive manner by the Sergeants at Arms from the House Chamber balcony for bearing a banner in opposition to the override. New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno responded in a tweet stating, “This is unreal! As a former legislator have seen many protesters in House Chamber and never seen any removed like this! This a physical manifestation of what some legislators are doing to the trans community. Horrific and sad.”

Transgender students already face barriers to sports participation in Louisiana. The Louisiana High School Athletics Association’s rules require immense medical prerequisites, such as sex reassignment surgery, prior to participation. Even after a student completes these requirements, they must still wait two years before they can compete. It’s unclear what the evidence of unfairness caused by trans athletes is, but it’s very clear that the status quo is not fair for them. Mizell once labeled the legislation as “preemptive,” but it looks a lot more like premeditated murder.

Luckily, the Louisiana State House of Representatives chose to shift in favor of strong opposition. In 2021, there were 85 anti-transgender bills filed across the country. The logic of preemption exhibited here is further evidence of a country-wide coordinated attack on transgender rights. Mizell claims to speak on behalf of “the large majority of people in this state,” but it’s unclear what that statement is founded on. In the words of Rabbi Katie Bauman, Senior Rabbi of Touro Synagogue in New Orleans, and one of the letter authors, “All our faiths teach that we should protect the vulnerable and love our neighbors as ourselves. This bill targets vulnerable children, and the Governor was right to veto it. We felt we had to stand up and say so.”

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