Last edited: February 13, 2005


Sadly, Gay Anti-Discrimination Laws Are Needed in Louisiana

Shreveport Times, May 20, 2001
Box 30222, Shreveport, LA 71130
Fax: 318-459-3301

By John Hill

When you watch the Louisiana Legislature, it’s sometimes difficult to believe we are living in the 21st century.

Such is the case over two bills, one involving sex practices between consenting adults that affects us all and the other would prohibit employers from discriminating against gays and lesbians simply because of their sexual orientation.

First, the sex practices law that makes felons out of most adults. House Bill 2036, by Rep. Cedric Richmond, would have altered "crime against nature law" by inserting one sentence: "Sexual acts committed by and between consenting adults in private shall not be deemed as a crime against nature."

The key words are "consenting adults" and "in private."

It may astonish many heterosexual couples, but if you have ever engaged in oral sex, you are guilty of a "crime against nature" and are subject to being convicted as a felon and face five years in prison.

"This bill is a privacy bill," Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat, said. "It says, ‘Big Brother,’ we don’t want you in our bedroom.’ "

The government shouldn’t be in our bedrooms. The most conservative among us should believe that. Still, the bill failed Thursday by a 47-42 House vote, but it can still be reconsidered.

The other bill is one that is hard to believe but a necessary reality, even in 2001.

It is Senate Bill 862, by Sen. Don Cravins, D-Lafayette, and Sen. Paulette Irons, D-New Orleans, which would provide job protection for gays and lesbians. It says employers of more than 25 people could not discriminate against an employee simply because of his or her sexual orientation. In other words, if a gay is "outed," he cannot be fired just because of that alone; it doesn’t mean a gay person cannot be fired for cause.

I have received more e-mail since the bill passed the Senate Labor and Industry Committee 10 days ago.

First, there was the very moving statement by state Sen. Ken Hollis, R-Metairie, who disclosed his son is gay. His son came out to him 10 years ago, and Hollis recalled having hugged him and told him he loved him.

"And I still love him," Hollis said. "He’s my son and I’m proud of him."

Shortly after his son told Hollis, two of his son’s friends told their own parents, encouraged by Hollis’ loving reaction. "One of them got beat up by his dad. The other one got thrown out of his house," Hollis told a very hushed committee room.

Choking back tears, Hollis recalled the time his son called to say he feared losing his job at a Louisiana university because his employers had discovered he was gay. Hollis said his son also told him stories about being afraid of violence against him and his gay friends.

Earlier, Sen. Lynn Dean, R-Braithwaite, had told a Senate committee of personal knowledge of a number of gays who committed suicide. Gays and lesbians are born that way, he said, adding it is not a matter of choice. Dean said he had personal knowledge of several gays who had committed suicide.

My own brother, Mark, who died of larynx cancer eight years ago, was gay. He once told me he hated the designation "sexual preference" because that indicated a choice was involved. "Do you think I would choose to be something society abhors?" he said, forever making the point "sexual orientation" was the more accurate term.

Louisiana has many gays who are lawyers, doctors, CPA’s, journalists, professionals who are walking among you, unknown because they are perfectly normal people who are God’s creatures, too.

I know the fundamentalists and religious right will be unhappy with this column; so be it. I am a Christian, too, a regular attendee of First Methodist Church of Baton Rouge. Our religion teaches tolerance and an obligation to help our fellow man, who are all equal in the eyes of God. Christian charity, in other words. I believe in it.

The need for this or any other anti-discrimination law should not even exist in 2001. Unfortunately, it does.

  • John Hill is chief of The Times Baton Rouge bureau. His column appears Sundays. He can be reached by calling (225) 342-7333. Email him at

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