Gov. Edwards Vetoes Slate of Anti-LGBTQ Bills

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Gov. John Bel Edwards has vetoed three anti-LGBTQ bills, saying they were discriminatory and represented a “vicious culture war.”

Late last week, Edwards vetoed a version of Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law (HB 466), the “Stop Harming Our Kids Act” (HB 648), which would have banned gender-affirming care for transgender children, and the “Given Name Act” (HB 81), which would required school employees to use only the name and pronouns on a student’s birth certificate without written permission from a parent or guardian.

“We sincerely thank Gov. Bel Edwards for rejecting these shameful, mean-spirited bills targeting LGBTQ+ youth, ” said HRC Legislative Counsel Courtnay Avant in a statement. “These bills are nothing but a desperate and cruel effort by extremist politicians in Louisiana to stigmatize, marginalize, and erase the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender youth. In contrast, Gov. Bel Edwards heard the voices of transgender kids, their families, teachers, and medical experts and chose to treat transgender children with dignity and respect. We strongly urge the Louisiana legislature to uphold the governor’s veto and stop these discriminatory attacks on vulnerable children.”

HB 81 – the “Given Name Act”

In his veto letter, Gov. Edwards noted that HB 81 “is yet another example of a string of discriminatory bills being pushed by extreme groups around the country under the guise of religious freedom.” That aside, the bill “is fraught with serious, practical implementation issues,” Edwards said.

Edwards noted that under the bill, every child under the age of 18 who uses a nickname would have to get written permission from their parents before they could use that nickname at school. However, public school children who are over 18 would not have to get such permission. Furthermore, the bill did not apply to private schools. “Are the same religious freedom protections for public school employees this bill alleges to address not extended to employees at private schools?” Edwards asked.

HB 466 – “Don’t Say Gay”

This is the second time the Legislature attempted to pass a version of Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. Last year, the bill died in committee. This session, HB 466 would have banned teachers, school employees, or “other presenters” from discussing their own sexual orientation or gender identity, using pronouns for a student different from those on the student’s birth certificate without written permission from the student’s parents, or “covering the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity in any classroom discussion,” as well as  during extracurricular activities.

“This bill unfairly places vulnerable children at the front lines of a vicious culture war,” Edwards said in his veto letter. “Further, the language would lead to absurd consequences. As passed, the mere mention of one’s spouse who happens to be the same gender could cause the school employee or presenter to run afoul of the law without ill intentions…” Edwards notes that this bill would have prevented educators from teaching the Supreme Court’s Oberfell v. Hodges decision, as well as sections of the Bible, which was just authorized as a course of instruction in Louisiana.

“Transgender children require our compassion and our help, no matter our differences,” Gov. Edwards said. “We may not always understand each other, but we cannot ignore our fellow citizens’ basic humanity. It is the duty of our schools to create an environment that fosters and supports all of the children of our state, to help them succeed academically and professionally.” Edwards went on to quote a previous veto from another session, saying, “the real harm of this bill is that it would set as the policy of the State of Louisiana that there is something wrong with these children and that they should be treated differently from whom they really are.”

HB 648 – “Stop Harming Our Kids Act”

In his veto letter addressing the proposed ban on gender-affirming care for Louisiana’s transgender children, Gov. Edwards calls the name of the bill – the “Stop Harming Our Kids Act,” “ironic,” saying “that is precisely what it does.

“This bill denies healthcare to a very small, unique, and vulnerable group of children,” Edwards said. “It forces children currently stabilized on medication to treat a legitimate healthcare diagnosis to stop taking it. It threatens the professional licensure of the limited number of specialists who treat the healthcare needs of these children. It takes away parental rights to work with a physician to make important healthcare decisions for children experiencing a gender crisis that could quite literally save their lives. And, without doubt, it is part of a targeted assault on children that the bill itself deems not “normal.””

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