Besides offering more evidence of the unsuitability of Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards to hold that position, or any other elective officer above that of dogcatcher, recent comments by him against legislation to protect children, parents, and teachers reflect changing political circumstances that have accelerated the erosion of his rapidly-waning power, to the state’s benefit.
His remarks referred in part to HB 648 by Republican state Rep. Gabe Firment, which would prohibit surgery or chemicals to alter the sex of a minor; HB 466 by GOP state Rep. Dodie Horton that would ban classroom or extracurricular expressions extraneous to educating students that focus on sexual activity and gives parents control over the names and pronouns that refer to their children; and HB 81 by Republican state Rep. Raymond Crews that basically duplicates the regulation of naming conventions in Horton’s bill. All have passed the House.
That’s in marked contrast to last year, when Firment offered a similar bill that never received a committee hearing and Horton had the same minus the naming regime that had to be forced out of committee in a parliamentary move rarely seen, although it advanced no further. The naming controversy in the past year has become increasingly visible over revelations that some schools intentionally keep parents in the dark about their efforts to encourage children to identify differently than their biological sex (no Louisiana schools have been reported to do this).
This year, these bills have had much more success, which in part stems from the pursuit of increasingly extremist policy on this issue by the political left in Washington and elsewhere, yet also pressured towards success from upcoming fall elections in Louisiana. Majorities across almost all demographic groups (excepting white Democrats) nationally are against surgery or drugs to alter a child’s sex hormonally or physically, so unless politicians are sure about their constituencies’ views and whether they can submerge this issue if need be, they must tread carefully if opposing bills like these.
Not so the term-limited Edwards, who as his political shelf life moves ever closer to expiration has felt freer than ever to express his true inner social liberalism. Recently, he condemned bills like these as harmful to the tiny, but apparently growing, proportion of youth questioning whether they identify with their physical sex, without acknowledging that the preponderance of physical and social science research revealing that practices such as medical interventions on children have harmful health outcomes for most, and repeating assertions from a small number of methodologically-questionable studies that appear to affirm his opinions.
His statements imply he would veto such measures if they cross his desk, even though he didn’t do that to a similar bill last year that prevents biological males, even if taking drugs to change their sex, from competing in all-female athletic events. He chickened out there because votes to pass the bills demonstrated veto-proof majorities, meaning at least some House Democrats crossed party lines to support those bills.
That he did to preserve political capital, but that runs out within a month, so he might go for broke on these. And in the case of HB 466, while Republican state Reps. Mary DuBuisson, Barbara Freiberg, Stephanie Hilferty, Richard Nelson, and Joe Stagni voted against it, more than enough Democrats were yeses to make it veto-proof. That represented a gain from the day before in terms of Democrats supporting with HB 81, with the latter a fallback for part of the former in any event. As for HB 648, only Stagni voted against it among GOP House members.
At least in the House, these numbers indicate particularly white Democrats running for an office this year won’t dare get on the wrong side of this issue (of them, only new Democrat state Rep. Roy Daryl Adams defected on HB 81 but the next day voted for HB 466). So, even if Edwards finally feels free to reveal his true self to the world with vetoes, the House will vote to override.
The Senate at this point seems harder to predict. It has only two white Democrats, one of whom will retire from politics with his term-limitation, and one vote to spare among Republicans for a supermajority. However, on the law that secured fairness for female athletes, all GOP members voted for it and for a previous version the year before Edwards vetoed successfully when the House failed to override.
Still, that Edwards has failed to influence enough members of his own party in the House to vote against these bills demonstrates his growing political impotence, already in an advanced state following veto sessions triggered the past two years with a successful override and his punting on the fairness bill. (And, the House rejected main portions of his budget). Considering his views increasingly inimical to a positive policy agenda for Louisiana, it’s a welcome development and likely harbinger of that agenda’s advancement, on steroids, next year.