In Louisiana, a Republican blocks ban on trans healthcare for children, faces backlash

Greg Hilburn
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

A Republican in the Louisiana Senate who derailed a bill to ban gender affirming healthcare for transgender minors in the state is facing a blistering wave of social media attacks threatening his political future and accusing him of siding with "butchers and groomers."

Acadiana Sen. Fred Mills, the GOP chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, cast the tie-breaking 5-4 vote Wednesday to kill House Bill 648 by Republican Pollock Rep. Gabe Firment. The other votes were cast along party lines, with four Republicans supporting Firment's bill and four Democrats opposing it.

The blowback was immediate from national conservatives who have been advocating for anti-LGBTQ laws in state legislatures.

Matt Walsh, who has 1.8 million Twitter followers, responded with this tweet: "Fred Mills has sided with the butchers and groomers. He will regret it. This is the biggest mistake of his political career, and also the end of his career. He’s going to be infamous and disgraced by his own base. We’ll make sure of that."

Mills is actually term limited and can't run for a fourth term in the Senate.

Mills told USA Today Network he was made aware of the criticism, "but I don't read it."

"Anytime you have to break a tie vote, no matter which way you vote, there's going to be backlash, and this is a national topic," Mills said. "I did like I always do. I listened to the debate and made the vote I thought was right. Why would I want to handcuff a doctor and his or her decision? I think they know more about this than politicians."

Greg Price encouraged his 277,000 Twitter followers to contact Mills' office and accused him of being swayed by drug companies that have contributed to his campaigns: "One look at his donors shows massive contributions from Big Pharma, which gets rich off giving these drugs to children," Price tweeted.

Andy Ross, president of the State Freedom Caucus Network, tweeted: "This RINO Republican - Louisiana State Senator Fred Mills - once dressed in drag as a 1st grader in a TV commercial. And now he just killed the bill that would ban transgender surgeries on minors."

But there was praise as well, including a tweet from Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Davante Lewis, the first openly LGBTQ person to be elected to a state office: "We don’t talk enough about the statesman Fred Mills is. Thank you, Chairman"

It was a rare victory for LGBTQ advocates during this Louisiana Legislative Session.

Bills to prohibit discussion of gender and sexuality in public school classrooms, referred to by critics as "Don't Say Gay," and a bill to restrict minors' access to public library materials deemed "sexually explicit" remain in play.

Gender affirming healthcare can range from counseling to puberty blockers to surgery.

Louisiana Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is pictured here during a town hall meeting in Carencro on Dec. 1, 2020.

Firment's bill, which secured a veto-proof win in the House, would have almost certainly cleared the full Senate had it been advanced from MIlls' committee. Republicans hold a super majority in both the Louisiana Senate and House.

"The legislation passed easily through the House with bipartisan support, and I am confident that the full Senate would have passed this important legislation that is overwhelmingly supported by the people of Louisiana," Firment said in a statement to USA Today Network. "It is unfortunate that the voice of the people was silenced in a state Senate committee room.

"Louisiana remains the only state in the South to allow it’s children to be harmed by these experimental procedures, but we will keep fighting to pass this legislation and protect Louisiana’s children no matter the cost and despite the forces aligned against us."

More:Louisiana advancing wave of anti-LGBTQ bills from 'Don't Say Gay' to library restrictions

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1