Despite last-minute revisions designed to mollify conservatives, Rep. Austin Badon's anti-bullying bill went down in flames May 19. HB 112, known as the "Safe Schools Bill," was fiercely opposed by the Louisiana Family Forum and Louisiana Baptists. It failed in a 53-43 vote.
When Gambit talked to Badon later that day, he was still angry. "The doggone religious conservatives made it into something it wasn't," he said. "What it really was was a 'scorecard' vote for the (Louisiana) Family Forum. It's an election year, and the members wanted to look good on the scorecard the Family Forum sends out." Badon said the bill covered the whole spectrum of human differences, but opponents focused on gays and lesbians. "Talking about homosexuality is a taboo to them," he said. "They fail to realize these are human beings who have every single right they have. Who are they to cast judgment?"
Most metro-area representatives supported the bill, but a majority of those in Jefferson opposed it. Voting for the measure were Reps. Neil Abramson, Jeff Arnold, Wesley Bishop, Jared Brossett, Juan LaFonta, Walt Leger III, Helena Moreno and Charmaine Marchand Stiaes of New Orleans (all Democrats), Walker Hines (a Republican) and Reps. Pat Connick, R-Marrero, and Robert Billiot and Girod Jackson of West Jefferson, both Democrats. Opposing it were Rep. Nick Lorusso of New Orleans and Reps. Cameron Henry, John LaBruzzo, Tony Ligi, Joe Lopinto III, Kirk Talbot, Ricky Templet and Tom Willmott of East Jefferson — all Republicans. Recorded as "absent" on the final vote was House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers. — Allman