This fall, U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, will be facing off against fellow U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, in the race for the newly carved-out Third Congressional District seat. Landry, a freshman who's a favorite of the Tea Party wing of the GOP, has grabbed national headlines, whether it's referring to the U.S. Department of the Interior as "the Gestapo" or holding up a sign reading "DRILLING = JOBS" during President Barack Obama's September 2011 address to Congress.
Last week, Landry grabbed more headlines when he asked Dr. Joseph Savoie, president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL) to drop the school's new sociology minor in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) studies, saying "it fails to provide an economic benefit to the participants or financial sense for the taxpayer." Savoie pointed out that the classes already existed before the minor was created and that adding the new minor to ULL's 100-some other minors cost nothing.
Landry's stance on LGBT issues hit a nerve with one member of his family: New Orleans resident and event planner Nicholas Landry, who is gay. As first reported by the Lafayette weekly The Independent, Nicholas Landry posted an open letter to his brother on Facebook:
"Taking a moment from my vacation to send a message to my brother, Jeffrey M Landry/Congressman Jeff Landry: In reference to your recent quest to remove the LGBT minor from the UL curriculum, I want to state my opposition publicly. Ignorance is not education. Your constituents, heterosexual and homosexual alike, have made huge inroads in working towards equality in our community. By embracing diversity and acknowledging our differences, we gain understanding. Understanding is education."
In recent years, differences on gay issues have made for uneasy relations among the families of some self-styled family values politicians. Candace Gingrich-Jones, half-sister of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, is married to a woman and has publicly taken on her brother's stance against same-sex marriage, refusing to support Gingrich during his recent run for the presidency. Others have been more accepting. Last month, Mary Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, married her longtime partner Heather Poe in Washington D.C., and Dick and former Second Lady Lynne Cheney — hardly liberals — issued a statement saying they were glad the couple had the "opportunity to have the relationship recognized."
Reached by phone, Nicholas Landry said he had nothing further to add to his public letter. Rep. Landry's office did not respond to a request for comment, but the congressman posted a response on his own Facebook page: "To my brother. I am sorry we disagree, but we still love and pray for you." — KEVIN ALLMAN