Louisiana's 'Don’t Say Gay' bill dies in committee

Legislation that would have barred discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in Louisiana’s K-12 schools, a version of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill approved in Florida, was killed Tuesday in committee.

In a 4-7 vote, every Democrat on the House Education Committee and Republican Reps. Stephanie Hilferty of New Orleans, Barbara Freiburg of Baton Rouge and Vincent St. Blanc of Franklin voted against the legislation.

Filed by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, House Bill 837 would have made it illegal for schools to incorporate “classroom instruction or discussion relative to sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through eight-grade classes. Teachers and school employees would have been prohibited from discussing “personal sexual orientation or gender identity” with students in grades K-12th grade.

“Certain teachers to use classroom instructional time to share their personal sexual orientation or gender identity preferences with our most vulnerable citizens, our children,” Horton said to the committee.

Randy Harper, pastor of Bellaire Baptist Church in Bossier City, said he reached out to Horton to get her to sponsor the bill. He told the education committee children’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be heavily influenced by what their teachers say in the classroom.

“Students feel their identity … comes from (teachers),” he said.

Horton said she felt teachers bringing their “lifestyle preferences” into the classroom are not appropriate. They should teach the curriculum, “not coming in and say (to the class), ‘Hey, everybody! I was a woman yesterday, but tomorrow I may be Mr. So and So,’” she said.

Opponents of the bill said they felt the bill’s ban was too broad and barred too much educational material from the classroom.

Dr. Belinda Davis, an appointee of Gov. John Bel Edwards on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, testified against the legislation. Horton’s bill would make the newly approved social studies standards unteachable, she said, particularly in relation to marriage or homosexuals targeted during the Holocaust.

The state’s social studies standards earned praise from conservative circles for their inclusion of various perspectives and lack of critical race theory.

To address the concern Davis raised, Horton’s bill was amended to allow classroom discussion on gender identity and sexual orientation if it’s “what is provided in the state content standards.”

When asked what she would say to students who identity as LGBTQ if her “Don’t Say Gay” bill was approved, Horton said “if the child needs help at school, then they should be referred to their counselor and someone who’s trained in that field.”

Because the bill bans discussions of gender identity, Rep. Patrick Jefferson, D-Homer, asked if students would be allowed to call adults “Mr.” or “Ms.”

Horton said her bill has nothing to do with that, which was met with laughter from the committee audience. “That’s all this bill has to do with,” one person said.


Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jarvis DeBerry for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Louisiana Legislature would ‘isolate’ LGBTQ students, critic says

A bill that would bar discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in K-12 schools has been filed in the Louisiana Legislature. It follows similar efforts in Florida and more than a dozen other states referred to as “Don’t Say Gay” proposals.

Filed by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, House Bill 837 would make it illegal for schools to incorporate “classroom instruction or discussion relative to sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through eight-grade classes and for teachers and other school employees to discuss “personal sexual orientation or gender identity” with students in grades K-12th grade.

Horton said she filed the bill to “protect our children from conversations that are not age-appropriate.”

“Teachers influence our children and they should never teach them their own preference,” Horton said.

SarahJane Guidry, executive director of Forum for Equality, an umbrella LGBTQ group in Louisiana, said Horton’s bill is designed to “stigmatize LGBTQ people, isolate LGBTQ kids, and make teachers fearful of providing safe, inclusive classrooms” across the state.

“The existence of LGBTQ students, parents and teachers is not a taboo topic that should be regulated by the Louisiana Legislature,” Guidry said. “We will not stand by while our elected officials attempt to censor discussions of LGBTQ youth, families, and history. HB 837 is about erasing our existence.”

Guidry said lawmakers should be creating laws that provide more support for LGBTQ youth in the state “instead of trying to force LGBTQ people back into the closet by policing identity or stopping kids from talking about their same-sex parents.”

She added that the bill would make matters worse for LGBTQ youth, who already experience higher rates of bullying and suicide.

When asked for an opinion on Horton’s bill, a spokesperson from Gov. John Bel Edwards’ office didn’t issue a direct response but reiterated an excerpt from his remarks opening the state legislative session this week.

“Some of the bills being brought up this session do nothing to make lives better. Nothing to continue moving us forward. They only serve to divide us. And frankly, some are reminiscent of a dark past that we should learn from, not relive,” Edwards said.

In an interview with the Illuminator, Horton continually referred to a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity as a person choice. She also objected to labeling her proposal as as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

“This is not a ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill,” Horton said. “It has nothing to do with someone’s lifestyle choice. Their sexual orientation is between them and God and it’s their choice.”

“If we worked towards access to safe and inclusive classrooms, then individuals like Rep. Horton would understand that one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity is not a choice,” Guidry said.

Pushback against LGBTQ teachers has recently been an issue in Louisiana.

In Shreveport, parents clashed at a Caddo Parish School Board meeting this week over a music teacher who identifies as nonbinary, but said they aren’t allowed to make their identity or orientation known at work.


Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jarvis DeBerry for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

Former Louisiana State Police leader’s lack of info in Ronald Greene case frustrates lawmakers

A bipartisan committee of state lawmakers spent nearly three hours Tuesday pressing the former superintendent of Louisiana State Police about what he knew about the May 2019 death of Ronald Greene, a Black motorist, in the custody of troopers after a vehicle pursuit in north Louisiana.

Col. Kevin Reeves retired in October 2020 with numerous questions about Greene’s still unanswered. Body camera video from the incident had not yet been released, with State Police saying the matter was still under investigation. The footage would show that troopers kicked, dragged, beat and shot Greene with their stun guns on the side of a highway near Monroe.

There was “no effort, to my knowledge, to cover up or mislead anyone about the events surrounding Ronald Greene,” Reeves told members of the House committee tasked with investigating allegations of a coverup.

Greene died after what was initially described to Gov. John Bel Edwards in a text message as a “lengthy, violent struggle” between troopers and an unnamed individual. State Police initially claimed Greene succumbed from injuries in the car wreck that ended the chase. An autopsy the FBI ordered attributed Greene’s cause of death to the police violence.

When Reeves was asked if Greene had died because of injuries from the car crash, he said the crash “was definitely a contributing factor” and that he hadn’t seen the FBI’s autopsy report.

Lawmakers grilled Reeves after he claimed to not be aware of State Police statements and other evidence surrounding the incident.

Rep. Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans, told Reeves that “it seems like you were just grossly disengaged” as State Police superintendent.

“I cringed to sit in here, constantly hearing you say ‘I didn’t read this’ and ‘I didn’t read that,’” Hughes said to Reeves.

Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, a member of the investigative committee, said to Reeves “it seems like you’re kind of putting on blinders” to statements and video evidence of the Greene incident in order to plead ignorance on the record.

When the committee’s chairman, Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, asked Reeves about the State Police’s initial explanation that Greene died from the crash and left out the violent struggle afterwards, Reeves said he didn’t see the statement.

Reeves later said he read a State Police detective’s report on the incident that included the police’s initial statement. Magee called out Reeves for contradicting himself.

“I’m having a hard time squaring what you just testified to,” Magee told Reeves.

When asked after the meeting about his exchange with Reeves, Magee said “that was disconcerting because, obviously, I want to take (Reeves) at his word … that he’s being honest with us. But it’s hard.”

“It didn’t add up,” Magee added.

Magee said it was “concerning” to hear Reeves’ testimony, which gave the lawmaker the impression the former State Police leader was disengaged with his subordinates and their supervisors when the Greene incident occurred. Magee added that he hopes to hear from current State Police Superintendent Lamar Davis to see if leadership in state police is still operating so hands-off.

Immediately after Reeves’ appearance, Greene’s mother, Mona Hardin, made an emotional statement to the committee.

“This is in the state of Louisiana, this happened,” Hardin said, fighting through tears. “This really, really happened.”

“It’s awful that someone that’s been in such a high position could have so many ‘I don’t know’ responses,” she said. “It’s so disrespectful to the office they hold, these overpaid, well-dressed officials.”

House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, who formed the committee, introduced a resolution to grant the committee subpoena power.

Currently, the committee can only invite witnesses to testify, but they are not compelled to appear. Subpoenas could also be used to obtain records relevant to their investigation.

During the meeting, Magee shut off the microphone of Reeves’ lawyer Lewis Unglesby and eventually forced him to leave the seat next to his client. Unglesby had interjected repeatedly to tell lawmakers to show Reeves respect after the chairman had told Unglesby he could only consult with his client and not address the committee.


Attorney for former Louisiana State Police superintendent admonished in legislative committee www.youtube.com



Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jarvis DeBerry for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.

Louisiana governor ‘looks forward’ to reviewing pardon of civil rights leader Homer Plessy

The Louisiana Board of Pardons voted to pardon Homer Plessy — a Creole man whose arrest for sitting in a “whites-only" car led the Supreme Court in 1896 to uphold segregation on the basis of race for another 50 years.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has final approval of the decision, was out of state Friday, “but looks forward to receiving and reviewing the recommendation of the Board upon his return," Shauna Sanford, the governor's spokesperson, said.

In 1892, Plessy — who was described in the Supreme Court ruling as “a free man who was seven-eighths white and one-eighth of African descent" — was arrested for sitting in a “whites-only" railroad car on a train running between New Orleans and Covington.

The Plessy v Ferguson decision justified whites-only spaces in trains and buses, hotels, theaters, schools and other public accommodations, according to the Associated Press. The decision was later overruled by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

Louisiana Illuminator is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Louisiana Illuminator maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jarvis DeBerry for questions: info@lailluminator.com. Follow Louisiana Illuminator on Facebook and Twitter.