The Ugly Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills of the 2023 Legislative Session (Plus One Good Bill)

Disarm Hate” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Louisiana legislature holds fiscal sessions every other year. For these sessions, legislators are only able to bring forth five non-fiscal bills. In the past, the LGBTQ+ community breathed a sigh of relief during this time as most legislators focused their non-fiscal bills on issues important to their constituents.

Not this year. 

When the session started on April 10, there were nine bills filed that target the LGBTQ+ community. These bills range from censoring library books, publishers and distributors to those against gender affirming care and bills that force school employees to disrespect students and ban all discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. There is also a proposed constitutional amendment on parent’s rights that could have serious unintended consequences, including impeding the removal of children from abusive homes.

Here is a quick rundown of the bills:

HB77 would let the Attorney General investigate publishers and distributors for content deemed “harmful to minors.” It is believed that, should this bill become law, it will be used to silence LGBTQ+ authors and publishers. HB77 passed out of the House Commerce committee on Wednesday but may be amended to neutralize the overly broad language of the bill.

HB102 and SB7 would use undefined “community standards” for all materials libraries are allowed to acquire and implement a tiered library card system for both books and digital content. These bills would defund any library that failed to comply as well as add an unnecessary, costly and difficult to enforce level of state oversight and bureaucracy.

HB466 would ban the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in schools (Don’t Say Queer/Gay/Trans) from kindergarten through the 12th grade. It would allow no instruction, discussion in or outside of the classroom about sexual orientation or gender identity nor the disclosure of anyone’s own orientation or identity. This bill also includes some of HB81‘s language.

HB81 requires school officials to use the name and pronouns that correlate with students’ birth certificates unless a parent gives explicit written consent to do otherwise. Even with such a direction from parents about their child’s pronouns, public school officials would still be able to ignore that request if they cite their “religious or moral convictions.”

HB463 sees the return of efforts to ban gender affirming care for minors and would even disallow insurance coverage and lead to the revocation of medical license for even referring someone under age eighteen for any gender affirming care. Erecting barriers to prevent trans folks from being able to receive medically necessary, life-saving care just marginalizes an already vulnerable community.

HB152 would put the right of parent’s rights to direct their children’s upbringing with respect to education, health, religion, and other matters in the state constitution. It could turn public schools into ideological battlegrounds, could leave children in abusive homes, make adoption more difficult and prevent teenagers from receiving confidential medical care. Under the bill, nearly every government rule, policy, and law that affects children could be labeled an “infringement” of parent rights and subject to strict scrutiny, the toughest legal standard for the government to overcome.

HB25 is a library oversight bill that basically allows the parish governing authority the ability to fire library board members, librarians and other library personnel. Public libraries provide services to all patrons no matter their ethnicity, religion, gender identity, education status, political affiliation, socioeconomic status or any other diversity of life and thought. Politicizing library operations would be detrimental to the functioning of public libraries, especially if it means replacing library management with the unfettered power of a parish council.

HB360 is a direct response to the Livingston Parish Library Board of Control’s successful efforts to stop book censorship. The bill would allow the parish council to fire the current board and add four more members to bring the total membership to nine. Current law already sets out rules for the establishment of Library Boards. It seems bad politics to advance a bill that makes an exception for one parish just because those in favor of censorship and book bans have not been able to achieve their goals. 

Collectively, these bills would make it harder for LGBTQ+ folks and their allies to access information, be treated respectfully or receive medically appropriate care. Focusing on these politically charged attacks is a waste of time and resources that could be better spent tackling any number of other issues important to Louisiana.

There is one positive LGBTQ+ bill and that is Representative Delisha Boyd’s HB40 which would add protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As she said during last year’s testimony, “There was a time where women were discriminated against, women didn’t have equal rights to men to vote, African Americans didn’t have equal rights to vote, equal rights in the world. We are evolving, so we would evolve as a people, as well, and not judge people based on someone’s sexual orientation and move with the world. This is an opportunity for us to stretch the minds of the citizens of Louisiana and give an opportunity to everyone to work.”

That is the message the Louisiana Legislature should take to heart.

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