by Kevin Allman
Despite last-minute revisions designed to mollify family-values conservatives, Rep. Austin Badon’s anti-bullying bill went down in flames today at a contentious session of the Louisiana House. HB 112, known as the “Safe Schools Bill,” was fiercely opposed by the Louisiana Family Forum and Louisiana Baptists; it failed in a 53-43 vote.
On May 18, John Yeats, the communications director for the Louisiana Baptists, wrote that the Baptists “despise bullying,” but the bill “has been hijacked by the Gay and Lesbian lobby by creating special classes of persons who are often victims of bullying.”
Earlier in the day, the House had amended the bill to remove a passage that cited “race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, physical characteristic, political persuasion, mental disability, or physical disability, as well as attire or association with others identified by such categories.” This wasn’t enough for Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, who was quoted by Walter Pierce of The Independent as telling fellow lawmakers, “This bill was intended to promote an agenda and force teaching alternative lifestyles to our children. Every person who testified [on behalf of the bill] was either gay or testifying on behalf of someone who is gay, so let’s not delude ourselves about the intent of this bill.”
Seabaugh later added, “This language [in the bill] is straight out of the lesbian, gay, transgender playbook.”
The Independent also quoted a frustrated Badon addressing the chamber after the vote:
“It’s a sad day in Louisiana. We have the authority and the power to address this issue. It’s a sad day when we won’t stand up and help the parents. For us to sit here and say that the conservative, religious right is going to dictate to us how we’re going to vote, I’m embarrassed by that. You should be ashamed of that. ...You got sidetracked, folks, you got sidetracked. You had the old okey-doke pulled on you. ...We turned this issue into something completely different than what it was.”
Most of the New Orleans-area delegation voted for Badon’s bill, including Reps. Neil Abramson, Jeffery Arnold, Jared Brossett, Walker Hines, Juan LaFonta, Walt Leger III, Helena Moreno and Charmaine Marchand Stiaes. Reps. Cameron Henry and Nick Lorusso voted against it.