Dig Baton Rouge

Work in Progress

By Nick BeJeaux

While our fair city touts the progress it has made over the last 10 years, it often forgets that there is still much work left to be done, especially on the fronts of social justice. It is a new year, and I say it’s time for a citywide resolution to dispense with divisive BS and come together to make Baton Rouge better. Consider the following a call to action.

Last year, the opportunity to do away with antiquated and unjust laws passed us by during the 2014 Legislative Session. The next session will begin in April, and before that happens, let’s revisit the mistakes of the past so that we may avoid them in the future. The law in question is

the colloquially known “sodomy law” which has been on the books for 195 years (even after the Supreme Court ruled it unjust) and put people in jail for engaging in basically any kind of sexual activity other than the heterosexual missionary position. I think I speak for everyone with a libido when I say that this law still being on the books is outrageous. While District Attorney Hillar Moore has said that he will not enforce the law, it allows police to arrest anyone suspected of engaging in such activity.

Similarly, a Fairness Ordinance, which would guarantee local protections against discrimination of any kind, was passed over in 2014 in favor of the unjust status quo by the Metro Council of BR. Rather than support the community that elected it, the Council ignored the widespread support for such a measure in favor of a very loud, misguided and bigoted minority.

As a city and as decent human beings, we cannot afford discrimination against LGBT people and other minorities to persist in our community. Apart from the ethical imperative of inclusivity, it has the practical effect of attracting talent to BR and showing the world we are not an ignorant backwater. Anyone who asserts they have the right to discriminate against another person is not only wrong, but a detriment to our society. When the next Legislative Session starts in April, Baton Rouge cannot afford to let discrimination win the vote.

Speaking of voting, a decision on the St. George dispute should be reached by this year. All that should be said about this issue that it should be put on a parish-wide ballot, and if it passes we will adapt. Because there are so many conflicting reports coming from some obviously biased sources, it’s very difficult to make up one’s mind on how such a split would affect BR and EBR as a whole. What is known is that BR is a tough city, and if the St. Georgians decide to leave, that’s their los,s and we’ll make due without them. Of course, if money would have been invested in the right places in the first place, we wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with.

When you invest in a community’s people and their well being, that community will grow faster and stronger than you would believe.  Education, infrastructure and civil liberty are the keys to BR and Louisiana’s continued success. This is what we must keep in mind heading into a new round of lawmaking and, of course, the governor’s race. I fear that Louisiana’s total control by Republicans, who have a record of not being inclusive in their policies, will divert their attention elsewhere. That means it’s your job to keep their attention where it matters. Protest, contact, do whatever it takes to make your community the place it deserves to be.


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