BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said Thursday he intends to veto a package of bills passed by the GOP-dominated legislature that targets the LGBTQ+ community, including a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender minors and the state’s version of a “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Edwards has said throughout the legislative session, which ended Thursday, that he opposes the series of LGBTQ+ bills. If Edwards blocks the bills, lawmakers can convene for a veto session. Overriding a veto requires support from two-thirds of both the House and Senate — and Republicans hold a two-thirds majority in both chambers. Louisiana legislators have only convened for two veto sessions since 1974.
While the main job of lawmakers for the past two months has been to pass a state budget, debate over the contentious anti-LGBTQ+ bills has gained statewide and national attention this session.
Marked by misinformation, religious arguments, hours of emotional testimony from the LGBTQ+ community, and a dramatic resurrection of a bill once presumed dead, Louisiana’s culture divide echoes what has been seen in GOP-led statehouses across the country, where bills targeting the transgender community have topped conservative agendas.
This year alone, more than 525 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in 41 states, according to data collected by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization. On Tuesday, HRC declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S., releasing a guidebook containing resources to help people relocate to states with stronger LGBTQ+ protections.
In the waning days of the session, lawmakers passed a series of controversial legislation, including: A “Don’t Say Gay” bill that broadly bars teachers from discussing gender-identity and sexual orientation in public school classrooms; a ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender youths; and a measure requiring public school teachers to use the pronouns and name that align with a student’s sex assigned at birth.
The bills have not yet reached Edwards’ desk. But when asked during a news conference if he would veto them, he replied, “That is my expectation.”
Republicans maintain that they are trying to protect children with the bills. Opponents argue it would do the opposite, leading to heightened risks of stress, depression and suicidal thoughts among an already vulnerable group.
Edwards called the ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youths — which includes puberty-blockers, hormone treatments and surgery — wrong.
“Let’s try to unite, not divide. Let’s not pick on a very small minorities, who happen to be comprised of the most vulnerable, fragile, children in our state — those most likely to engage in suicidal ideations and suicide attempts,” Edwards said.
Senate President Page Cortez, a Republican, said it will be up to lawmakers whether they convene for a veto session. In order to do so, a simple majority of lawmakers would need to agree to it.
When asked if he thought the GOP has the two-thirds vote needed to override a veto, he replied, “I don’t know at this point and time.”