June 13, 2024


One of Louisiana’s few children’s heart specialists and his family are leaving the state because of anti-LGBTQ bills passed by the Legislature this summer.

Dr. Jake Kleinmahon, medical director of Ochsner Hospital for Children’s, said he and his husband, Tom, can’t continue to raise their two children “in this environment.”

Kleinmahon announced his family’s decision Saturday in a Facebook post.

“My plan had been to stay at my current institution until I retired,” he said. “However, over the last year, Tom and I have watched state legislatures across the South pass anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Louisiana’s last legislative session was no different.”

Louisiana has banned gender-affirming healthcare for transgender children beginning Jan. 1 after the Legislature overrode a veto from Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards on Republican Rep. Gabe Firment’s House Bill 648.

Lawmakers were unable to override Edwards’ vetoes on two other anti-LGBTQ bills, including one to restrict the discussion of gender and sexuality in public school classrooms and another requiring school employees to use the names and pronouns of students on their birth certificates unless they have parental consent.

“While they failed to override the governor’s veto on two of the three bills, the message is very clear,” Kleinmahon said in his post. “Tom and I have discussed at length the benefits of continuing to live in the South, as well as the toll that it takes on our family. Because of this, we are leaving Louisiana. Our children come first.”

Kleinmahon told USA Today Network in a Facebook message he hadn’t expected his post “to go so viral,” but he postponed an interview while he begins to transition to his new job. He is moving to Long Island, N.Y., to become director of pediatric heart transplant, heart failure and ventricular assist devices at Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

“This is a wonderful new opportunity, but it is incredibly sad to leave our home, our friends, colleagues and patients and their families,” he said in his post.

Kleinmahon said the family will be moving later this month.

Legislators in the Louisiana House and Senate secured more than the two-thirds vote needed to reverse Edwards’ veto of Firment’s bill with bipartisan support.

“(This bill) will ensure that Louisiana’s children receive help, not harm; treatment, not transition; and protection, not politics,” Firment said on the House floor, calling gender affirming healthcare “life-altering irreversible medical experiments.”

Gender-affirming healthcare for minors can range from puberty blockers to hormones to surgery.

Firment insisted such healthcare is experimental and dangerous, a position some doctors supported during hearings on his bill.

But the American Medical Association disagrees.

“The AMA opposes the dangerous intrusion of government into the practice of medicine and the criminalization of healthcare decision-making,” said AMA board members Dr. Michael Suk in 2021. “Gender-affirming care is medically-necessary, evidence-based care that improves the physical and mental health of transgender and gender-diverse people.”

More: Louisiana bans gender affirming healthcare for minors, overturning Democrat governor veto

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


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