HB 112 Forum (Thursday June 9, 2011): A Re-Cap.

Louisiana’s Regular Legislative session has come and is almost gone. House Bill 112 was presented, but sadly failed. A few members of the community came together last Thursday to discuss HB 112….what we did right, what we did wrong, and what we should do next. Yes, that’s right, I said next. Because we’re presenting the bill again next session.

The forum was hosted by a panel of experts/activists that consisted of a few familiar faces from Forum for Equality, Stonewall Democrats, Capital City Alliance, Spectrum, and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Before the conversation kicked off, a few panelists were presented with awards for their outstanding efforts in working with this bill.

We began with a brief history of the bill. In light of all the nationally-broadcasted events that occured last fall (2010) involving homosexual students and suicides, bullying, etc., our local LGBTQ organizations decided to take a stand and work together for the younger LGBTQ community who need our voices to protect them. Forum for Equality, who works within the legislative bodies to estabish a society free from discrimination, took a pledge to support trans-inclusive legislation. Around the same time, Capital City Alliance hosted an anti-bullying townhall event on LSU’s campus which was extremely well attended. In January of 2011, Forum for Equality wrote the first draft of HB 112, and it was presented to and eventually backed by New Orleans Representative Austion Badon. From there, it went on to the House Committee of Education and passed,  but failed by 10 votes once it got to the entire House Floor.

Surely, you’re familiar with the bill by now (if not, check the “Louisiana HB 112” Category of this blog to read up on it). It is extremely all-inclusive, though it eventually became recognized as a “gay bill”. NAMI’s presence at this forum proved that there are other (“non-gay”) communities who back this bill as well, though one of the panelists did mention that we need to reach out to/network with other organizations to create a diverse team of supporters. Doing so  erases the idea that “gays are hijacking this bill to promote the homosexual lifestyle” (remember when some idiot said that?!) and helps Reps realize that bullying is a universal issue, not only prevalent in certain communities, and that this bill will protect EVERYONE.

According to our panelists, here’s what we did right:
By some stroke of luck, a few supporters were able to score interviews with editors of The Advocate to present our message, which resulted in a favorable commentary in the newspaper the day before the first Committee hearing of the bill.
The large number of people that showed up for the legislative meetings proved that this is an issue that people are passionate about. There is power in numbers. 

What we did wrong:
We started our attempts too late. We need to begin educating other Baton Rouge-ians and politicians  RIGHT NOW, instead of waiting a month or two before the next legislative session begins.

That being said, the panelists urged us to do a few things:
Get Involved! Help fight for your rights…You don’t need permission to become active. Anyone can join CCA, Spectrum, Forum for Equality, Louisiana TransAdvocates! 
Stay aware and informed on the issues we face as LGBTQ people.
It is our duty to inform others of LGBTQ issues, so ask your straight family/friends/allies to join our efforts.
Get to know your local Reps and reach out to them…make sure they know who they’re representing and who’s voting for them.
Use your resources and network with people from other communities.

And check Girl Get Out regularly to stay abreast of all LGBTQ events happening in Baton Rouge 🙂

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