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Louisiana LGBTQ activists disrupt governor’s interview, demand firm commitment against bigotry

By Serena Sojic-Borne

Protesters exit lecture while holding banner and chanting.

New Orleans, LA – On March 22, a group of LGBTQ activists interrupted a public interview with Governor John Bel Edwards at Loyola University. They unfurled a banner reading “Gov. Edwards: Will you veto hate?” Ed Abraham, the main protest speaker, demanded that Edwards commit to vetoing all bills threatening LGBTQ rights in the Louisiana legislature. Edwards did not deliver a commitment, and Loyola police removed protesters from the venue. The activists left chanting, “Defend trans kids! Veto hate!”

So far, activists are concerned about six bills. Two (SB 7 and HB 102) attempt to prohibit libraries from acquiring materials that do not comply with “community standards.” It leaves these standards open-ended. It also requires implements restricted library cards that prevent juveniles from checking out certain books, also threatening to defund libraries that don’t comply. These bills’ authors filed them in tandem with the attorney general’s recently released report on libraries. His guidelines single out books containing sex education and LGBTQ themes as “pornographic.”

Another bill (HB 25) would allow parish (county) authorities to fire library board members and library personnel. A fourth (HB 77) allows the attorney general to fine distributors and publishers of any content deemed “harmful to minors.” A fifth would amend the state constitution to enshrine “parental rights.”

While these bills appear apolitical, they come at a time when the Republican Party is attempting to disparage and ban LGBTQ-oriented children’s literature. The bills’ vague texts turn them into potential legal tools for enforcing book bans.

The Deadname Bill (HB 81) attempts to require all public school teachers to use names and pronouns for students that reflect their birth certificates. Students can apply for an exception with a parental note. But teachers or school staff could ignore the note if they claim “religious or moral convictions.”

Ed Abraham of Real Name Campaign NOLA asked the governor, “Are you gonna use your leadership to protect trans lives, or are you gonna stand idly by in a crisis happening across the South, where trans people’s lives are at stake because of legislation?”

Last year, despite LGBTQ community pressure, the Governor Edwards, a Democrat, refused to commit to any veto. He then allowed the passage of the “Trans Sports Ban,” a law that prohibits trans kids from playing in school sports teams that match their genders.

The Real Name Campaign, the organization that planned the action, is organizing a march against these bills on Friday, March 31, at 5:30 p.m., starting from Washington Square Park in New Orleans.