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LGBT+ Louisianans rally at legislators’ offices, staffers leave out back door

By Serena Sojic-Borne

Speaker reads letter by educators, parents, and students against anti-LGBT+ bill

Baton Rouge, LA – On April 29, 20 protesters in New Orleans and Baton Rouge held two coordinated rallies to protest anti-LGBT+ legislation. High school students, teachers, parents and social workers attended. They spoke out against Louisiana’s version of the Don’t Say Gay bill, and a ban on transgender girls playing sports. The rallies took place outside of two key state legislators’ offices to push them to vote no on both pieces of legislation.

In New Orleans, protesters rallied outside the office of Representative Stephanie Hilferty, and in Baton Rouge, they targeted Representative Barbara Freiberg’s office. These politicians are Republican swing votes on the House Education Committee. If they both vote against the bills, they can stop them or delay them long enough to run out the clock this session. Protesters timed their rallies to deliver the message to both legislators at the same time.

Event participants in both cities found the legislators’ offices vacant, at 4 p.m. on a Friday. In New Orleans, the front door had an “out of office” notice. But at the end of the event, an observer of the protest reported that two people exited through the back door. They were probably staffers who saw the rally.

Participants at both events left a letter and signs at the office doors. The letter, signed by LGBTQ+ organizations, social workers and the New Orleans teachers’ union, stated: “At the end of the day, everyone should be treated with dignity and respect – and that includes transgender young people. A supermajority of Louisianans (71%) support comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.”

A participant of the Baton Rouge rally took the event as an opportunity to come out to her extended family online, with the love and affirmation of other protesters.

“Don’t Say Gay” and the trans sports ban

The Don’t Say Gay bill, or House Bill 837, threatens to prohibit all discussion of “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” in classrooms for grades K-8. It also places a gag order on teachers from disclosing their own sexual orientations or gender identities in grades K-12. This is a copy of identical legislation in Florida. There is no way to enforce the letter of this law. Grammar lessons on pronouns refer to gender identity (she, he). Writing “Mrs. Anderson” on a board is often a disclosure of this teacher’s sexual orientation. When the bill says “gender identity and sexual orientation,” it uses this as a dog whistle for “LGBTQ kids.” The point is to greenlight transphobic and homophobic harassment, bullying and discrimination.

The trans sports ban, or Senate Bill 44, tries to outlaw any transgender girl’s participation in girls’ sports. It has no grounding in science or international athletics standards. In fact, transgender women participate in women’s sports around the world, and most perform as well as cisgender women. Only outstanding ones deal with critics who punish them for their achievements. The main reason that women face disadvantages in sports is because their teams receive less funding and attention than men’s. The so-called “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” does not address this. The bill is also likely to have racist and discriminatory consequences beyond transphobia. When someone accuses a cisgender woman of being a “biological male,” it’s often because she’s Black, brown, or intersex. This was true for Caster Semenya, who critics considered to be too masculine for her gender.

A 2022 ABC News/Ipsos poll found that most people in the U.S. oppose the Don’t Say Gay bill, and a 2021 Marist poll found that most also oppose anti-transgender legislation. Neither bill responds to any constituents’ needs.

Real Name Campaign NOLA organized the coordinated double rally. It can be reached on Facebook @RealNameCampaign and on Instagram @real_name_campaign.

#BatonRougeLA #WomensMovement #antiLGBTQLegislation #dontSayGay