On its face, Senate Bill 217 by Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Pearl River, may strike some as benign — as did many of the “states rights” bills in the 1950s and ’60s. It reiterates the six factors currently identified as “protected” under state law. Sexual orientation and several other key factors are not among them. The real intent of the bill and its supporters came out on March 29, when the bill was heard by the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, which Crowe chairs.This article is written by Clancy DuBos, a fairly mainstream political analyst in Louisiana. And when I say mainstream, I mean mainstream for the state of Louisiana. DuBos owns the Gambit Weekly (which runs the website this article is posted on). DuBos and his paper endorsed Bobby Jindal for governor so this is not some knee-jerk liberal hyperbole that he's presented here.
That aim: to prohibit the state and all local governments from protecting persons against discrimination based on sexual orientation, proficiency in English, special needs and other factors not already enumerated in state law.
If passed, the bill would allow charter schools, for example, to discriminate against kids who are gay, who aren’t proficient in English, who have special needs, who aren't very athletic, or who simply aren’t the best students. All this, despite federal laws that require public schools to be open to all kids.
If you think I’m exaggerating, watch the archived online video of the committee’s March 29 meeting. (SB 217 comes up for consideration about 30 minutes into the meeting.) Only two persons spoke in favor of the bill — LSU professor Randy Trahan and local charter school board member Leslie Ellison. Both, without prompting, framed their support of the bill in terms of charter schools. Trahan expressly stated that SB 217 would apply “across the board” to teachers and kids alike. ~link
DuBos correctly deems this an attempt at modern day segregation, but with the target being gay kids. In effect, this law would make many charter schools "gay-free zones." Not surprisingly the usual suspects are lined up in support of the bill:
SB 217’s proponents include the Louisiana Baptist Convention, the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops. It’s interesting that LFF leader Gene Mills did not testify in committee. Perhaps he did not want to be outed as an architect of the bill. He did, however, tell reporters afterward that he wanted to “send a message” to Gov. Bobby Jindal.And what message does he want to send to Jindal? Apparently, despite many of Jindal's homophobic positions, he's apparently a nancy boy liberal when it comes to education of gay kids. The Jindal administration has mandated that charter schools not to discriminate against students based on sexual orientation among other factors. The idea that all children have a right to an education has infuriated the right wing base of the state GOP.
Here is the Times-Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry on the issue:
My basic understanding of the Gospel message is this: God is far more loving and welcoming than people are. Even -- or should I say especially? -- people who think of themselves as godly.And my favorite Louisiana columnist, James Gill on the matter:
The knock on Jesus was that he spent time with society's rejects, the undesirables, the ostracized. How depressing it is, then, to see so many of my fellow Christians leap at the opportunity to reject and ostracize others.
A bill by state Sen. A.G. Crowe would, among other offenses, allow charter schools to refuse admission to gay students. State law does not prohibit anti-gay discrimination, but the state's Department of Education does. Crowe's bill would not allow the department, or any other state agency, to acknowledge any protected classes that state law does not.
The north shore lawmaker says exposing gay kids to discrimination is not his intent. Nor, he says, would it be a consequence of the legislation. That must shock those who've publicly supported Crowe's legislation.
Leslie Ellison, president of the board at New Orleans' Milestone-Sabis Charter School, told the Senate Labor and Industrials Relations committee that she had refused to sign a contract with the Department of Education because it wanted a promise from her company that it would not discriminate against gay people.
Sen. Ed Murray of New Orleans, the only senator on the committee of six who voted against the measure, said he found Crowe's idea "very scary." This legislative session has been dominated, he said, by talk of openness, of school choice. And here's Crowe with a bill that could officially make certain schoolchildren pariahs.
Murray asked Trahan explicitly if he believed charters, which are supposed to be providing a public education, ought to be able to keep gay kids out.
"I think they should, yes," Trahan said, because "the Legislature itself has not seen fit to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation."
Whatever the Creator had in mind, Crowe does not believe that citizens should be endowed by the state with equal rights, as another of his pending bills demonstrates. This one legalizes discrimination by government contractors and would lead to such enlightened consequences as the expulsion of gay students from charter schools. It is evidently not possible for zealots to have a heart.There's been a recent push in Louisiana to attract creative professionals to the state. Research shows that creative professionals don't like to live in intolerant states. I think, not only is this bill bad for human rights of school children but contradicts those aims. I have sent tweets to two New Orleans business community organizations in GNO Inc (@GNOinc) and Silicon Bayou News (@siliconbayou) to bring attention to how this might be bad for business. I didn't make any demands I simply asked a somewhat rhetorical question: Do you guys think that AG Crowe's SB 217 will help attract top notch creative professionals to Louisiana?
Unfortunately, not all of Crowe's pending bills are pointless. His piece de resistance has a clear and thoroughly reprehensible purpose.
Government agencies currently require contractors to sign non-discrimination agreements, so that, for instance, charter schools cannot bar gays. They will if Crowe's bill passes.
His rationale is that, since state statutes prohibit discrimination only on grounds of race, religion, national ancestry, age, sex or disability, it is improper for the executive branch to include other factors in standard contracts. In fact, it is common procedure for administrative regulations to elaborate on statutory provisions. Crowe's claim that he merely seeks to uphold the law is hogwash. This is nothing more than a gay-bashing bill. If the Education Department hadn't prohibited discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, there would have been no bill. This was the voice of the religious right.
I would ask anyone here to contact these business organizations to help get them to see that this is bad for business.
11:44 AM PT: Thanks to Angry Gays and Milkmen and Women for the re-publish.
1:17 PM PT: Thanks to Louisiana Kossacks for the republish!