Baton Rouge

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dan Savage goes after Louisiana lawmakers following yesterday's vote on sodomy law

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 2:29 PM

Dan Savage, author of Savage Love. - CREATIVE COMMONS/ERIK ABDERHALDEN
  • Dan Savage, author of Savage Love.

"Savage Love"
 columnist Dan Savage has had it with the Baton Rouge lawmakers who voted yesterday to keep Louisiana's unconstitutional sodomy laws on the books:

No mention of state Rep. Pat Smith, who tried to overturn the law — nor of the (mostly New Orleans-based) legislators who voted for the repeal. And Seattle's The Stranger, where Savage is editorial director, has also posted a blog entry, "Louisiana Lawmakers Vote to Keep Blowjobs Illegal," which has the usual comments about all of us who are so stupid that we live here. So there's that, too.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Louisiana House kills anti-sodomy bill

Posted By on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Following its narrow passage in committee last week, House Bill 12 — which aims to remove language in Louisiana's crimes against nature statute criminalizing consensual oral and anal sex — failed to pass in the Louisiana House, where it was voted 27-66.

The bill from state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, would remove part of a 200-year-old law that was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, a ruling upheld in Louisiana's Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2005. Smith's measure also met approval from LGBT organizations as well as Louisiana criminal justice organizations, on the grounds that there exists in the books a law they can't enforce.

State Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, asked the House to vote against Smith's measure, consdering "yesterday was Passover and Friday is Good Friday."

"This has been on the Louisiana law books for nearly 200 years," she said. "Just because we decriminalize something doesn’t make it right. ... We’re not here to rubber stamp the Supreme Court. ... We’re here to uphold the law of what’s right and wrong."

The bill faced similar religious objection in the House Administration of Criminal Justice committee on April 9, when members of the Louisiana Family Forum called the measure "immoral" and that removing the language would create a health crisis.

At today's House session, Smith pleaded with members to vote in favor "not only for me, for this bill, but for your law enforcement … bringing in people who can’t be prosecuted."

Orleans and Jefferson Parish Reps. Jeff Arnold, Austin Badon, Wesley Bishop, Jared Brossett, Helena Moreno, Walt Leger and Ebony Woodruff were among the 27 people who voted in favor of the bill.

Orleans and Jefferson Parish reps. who voted against the measure: Bryan Adams, Robert Billiot, Pat Connick, Raymond Garafalo, Jerry Gisclair, Cameron Henry, Christopher Leopold, Joseph Lopinto, Nick Lorusso, Julie Stokes, Kirk Talbot and Thomas P. Willmott.

Neil Abramson was absent and did not vote.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Y@ Speak: family values

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 12:53 PM

From kissing congressmen to virgin ice cream to Bibles to dog funerals to protecting your drag queen husband in a barroom brawl, Louisiana stood up for the Family, however one defines it, even if it's terribly. This week's Y@ Speak celebrates the defenders of family values.

Also, a reminder: you can now catch a preview of Y@ Speak in the print edish of Gambit.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

No wine ice cream for you, Louisiana House committee says

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 2:06 PM


The Louisiana House Judiciary Committee deferred for the second time a vote on a bill that would allow wine ice cream in the state. House Bill 471 from Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, would exempt ice cream from "adulterated food" prohibited by state law.

Wine ice cream — available from Mercer's in New York, offering flavors like Cherry Merlot, Peach White Zinfandel and Red Raspberry Chardonnay, with 5 percent alcohol by volume — was turned down by Louisiana attorney general Buddy Caldwell last year in a letter to Troy Hebert, commissioner of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol & Tobacco Control (ATC), which helped draft Hunter's legislation.

At today's meeting, Rep. Ray Garofalo Jr., R-Chalmette, said he feared wine ice cream would be attractive to children, and that there are no ways for law enforcement to prevent children and people under 21 from buying it. Hunter said, "There’s no way we can legislate the provision for a child or adult from getting alcoholic beverages."

Rep. Edward James, D-Baton Rouge, said the committee was "creating more problems than it needs" adding that it already delayed a vote in March. "We beat it up then and we're beating it up now."

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The sweeter side of the legislative session: Laws on pie and cane syrup

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 11:22 AM


Cane syrup and pie have marched (read: oozed and rolled) into Baton Rouge, demanding the same respect as similar sweet treats from Louisiana legislators.

HB 294 (Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette) calls for the exclusion of home cane syrup preparations from the state Sanitary Code and commercial food regulations, affording it the same treatment as small batch jellies, preserves, jams, honey, and honeycomb products. A similar bill — HB 216 (Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington) — calls for home preparations of pie to be held to the same standards as small batch, home prepared cakes and cookies.

No word on why these two important sweets were excluded from the original laws. Both bills currently sit in the House Health and Welfare Committee.

Whether or not we achieve #canesyrupjustice or #piejustice, budding cooks of all backgrounds are on their way to having their own 30-day long, state sanctioned celebration. SCR 65 (Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma), which would designate November as Culinary Careers Awareness Month, passed the state Senate unanimously earlier this week and sailed through the House yesterday.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bill to remove anti-sodomy law passes House committee

Posted By on Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 12:45 PM

House Bill 12 from state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, which would remove consensual oral and anal sex from the state's "crimes against nature" statute, passed today's House Administration of Criminal Justice committee. The language already was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas.

"This bill is a cleanup bill. That’s all it is," Smith said. "No matter what you think about the language, it’s unconstitutional."

Between 2011 and 2013, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office made arrests under the state's anti-sodomy crimes against nature statute. East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux III later apologized and pledged to work to remove the language from the law. Smith's repeal also saw support from East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore, Louisiana Sheriffs Association director Michael Ranatza, and Pete Adams, director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association.

In a February statement, Equality Louisiana president Tim West said, "This bill is a common sense solution to a silly problem. It just makes sense to remove an unenforceable law from the books." He also called opposition from Gene Mills and his conservative Christian group the Louisiana Family Forum "unambiguous discrimination."

In today's meeting, opposition to the bill came out in full force. The Louisiana Family Forum's Bill Smith said while he wasn't present “to make a moral judgment” he said the bill would not address the AIDS crisis in Louisiana and Baton Rouge, which has one of the highest rates of HIV in the U.S. "This [bill] opens up ways for them to kill themselves," he said.

Continue reading »

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Louisiana legislature debates new voting laws

Posted By on Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 10:52 AM


You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it vote. If you could, Louisiana lawmakers would have figured out a way by now to allow ponies inside voting booths. Barring that, they’re stuck with the seemingly insurmountable challenge of increasing voter turnout.

Rep. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans, had the idea to extend early voting to Sundays, but lawmakers on the House and Governmental Affairs Committee balked at its more than $200,000 price tag. The committee and the full House, however, have advanced House Bill 501 by state Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans, to allow 16-year-olds to register to vote (they still wouldn’t be able to cast ballots until they are 18). Coupled with outreach in elementary and high schools, it could eventually make a difference.

But really, who knows? Politicos and special interests have been trying to get some kind of consistent voter turnout in Louisiana for years, with mixed results. Now lawmakers, in what has become a minor theme in the ongoing session, are trying to legislate turnout.

Continue reading »

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Bill aims for open season on Louisiana wild hogs

Posted By on Fri, Apr 4, 2014 at 12:40 PM

Desoto Parish State Rep. Richard "Richie" Burford, R-Stonewall (motto: "A great place to live"), introduced House Bill 353, which declares open season on wild hogs — the pigs, not the Tim Allen dad-buddy masterpiece. Under the bill, hunters can go after wild hogs, day or night, on private property. Under present law, hunting wild hogs is restricted to daylight hours from February through August. The bill passed the House 85-10 on Wednesday and was introduced in the Senate Thursday.

A House amendment also includes authorization to hunt coyotes at night on private property, also at any time of the year. (Present law already includes permission to hunt nutria and beaver.)

The bill follows the state's exploding wild animal populations — which in recent years have crept into more urban and suburban areas of New Orleans beyond surrounding bayous and parks. Recent sightings include a coyote (which has a Twitter account) stalking Uptown, and several adorable hog families hanging out on the neutral ground on Almonaster Road in New Orleans East.

According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, feral hogs (Sus scrofa) came to North America via Spanish explorers who planned to use them as livestock, but through escape and release, the pigs adapted to the wild. They can reach 400 pounds — they're protective, and kind of mean, and you don't want one charging at you. While the piglets are cute, the animals cause millions of dollars in damage to farms, forests and other property. Hog rooting can impact crops, golf courses, hayfields and backyards. The LSU AgCenter estimates there are more than 500,000 wild hogs in the state.

("But how does it taste, Alex?") Great. It's lean and not too game-y.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Domestic violence bills move through Louisiana House and Senate

Posted By on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 12:15 PM


A massive domestic violence reform package from New Orleans Democrats Helena Moreno and J.P. Morrell has survived the House and Senate this week.

This morning, the Louisiana House overwhelmingly passed three bills from state Rep. Moreno’s House package, which deals with criminal law for domestic violence offenders. House Bill 753 prohibits a domestic violence offender from possessing a firearm while under a protective order; House Bill 747 adds “domestic abuse aggravated assault” to the Louisiana Criminal Code’s crimes of violence list and makes a second conviction for domestic abuse battery a felony; and House Bill 750 requires judges to expedite protective orders into the Louisiana Protective Order Registry. The bills met no opposition and are pending introduction on the Senate floor.

On Tuesday, April 1, state Sen. Morrell's civil bills passed the Louisiana Senate 39-0 and head to the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure.

Morrell’s Senate Bill 291 allows domestic violence survivors to be awarded punitive damages, which currently apply only in drunk driving and statutory rape cases. Senate Bill 292 allows for an immediate divorce if a family member is physically or sexually abused or if there is an active protective order against the spouse.

For more information on domestic violence in Louisiana, visit our coverage at

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bill to allow armed off-duty cops in bars passes committee

Posted By on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 6:00 PM


House Bill 10 from state Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, would allow off-duty law enforcement to carry firearms inside bars and restaurants that serve booze.

A similar bill co-authored by Burns, House Bill 72 from state Rep. Joseph Lopinto, R-Metairie, proposes permitting off-duty and retired law enforcement to carry firearms in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. It also would allow concealed carry permit holders to carry their firearms in restaurants with booze.

Today, that bill passed 9-4 in the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice. It heads to the House floor for a full vote.

State Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, a former head of the Louisiana State Police, prodded Lopinto as to why the legislation is necessary (asking, "You take your gun with you (to bars and restaurants)?"). Lopinto, himself a former Jefferson Parish Sheriff Deputy, reminded the committee that permitholders already can have their permit revoked if their BAC is above .05 percent.

"If I go out and have drinks I wont have my gun with me," Lopinto said. "If something happens to me, and it's called into question the alcohol in me..."

"But you’re the exception," Landry said. "You know the consequences of irrational, under-the-influence behavior. You’re not the rule. ... We have irresponsible people (who believe) alcohol and a gun make them a bigger person."

Lopinto said those people already are acting outside of the law — in which firearms are banned in alcohol beverage outlets, which in this case are bars and restaurants with a bar. Lopinto argued that carriers shouldn't be punished for being at a restaurant that serves booze. "Take the alcohol out of it," he said. "It's a restaurant."

State Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, also criticized the bill. "Louisiana puts nothing before guns," she said. "We’ll go at whatever costs we need to make sure we can do everything and anything with our guns."

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