If you’re here just to find out what the conclusion was to the Baton Rouge Metro Council’s debate on the gay-rights “Fairness Ordinance,” we’ll spare you the rest: there was no conclusion. The debate didn’t conclude; the Metro Council by law had to adjourn its session by 8:30 p.m. and that’s what happened after more than 3 1/2 hours of people speaking for and against the ordinance.
As a result, in two weeks the measure will return to the agenda and we’ll have another interminable discussion about the efficacy of a ban on discrimination according to “gender” and “sexual orientation,” complete with a cause of action in local law which appears relatively clearly to violate the Louisiana constitution.
The speakers in favor of the ordinance ran a gamut from the CEO’s of Lamar Advertising and Albemarle, who both alleged that the passage of the ordinance would make Baton Rouge economically competitive with other cities, to Mayor-President Kip Holden, who offered up a rambling diatribe which appeared to accuse opponents of the measure of bigotry and faux Christianity – and then included the “victims” of anti-gay discrimination who didn’t seem to have a whole lot of actual specific evidence to offer in backing those claims.
It was quite a long session of pro-ordinance speakers, but a relatively weak case. No showing whatsoever was made that an economic disparity exists between gay people and straight people in Baton Rouge to the disadvantage of the gay community – or the transgendered or transvestite or other communities covered under the proposal. In order to create a ban on discrimination or a cause of action, the necessity of such a showing would seem to be essential before making a change to the law that would impose an economic or legal burden on a large swath of the population.
What also wasn’t made was a showing that other cities which have passed such an ordinance have seen a benefit to their economic growth. As a couple of the opponents pointed out, for the most part the buzz surrounding Baton Rouge has been that the area is seen nationally as a very hot locale for business growth, and Baton Rouge ranks among the best places to do business by publications like Site Selection. It might be that if the ordinance were to pass that Baton Rouge could become even hotter, but to win the argument it would have been helpful to show that other cities with that ordinance had demonstrated growth attributable to it.
None of that was done. Instead, what was outwardly said by many and implied by more was that if you opposed the ordinance that opposition was motivated by hatred and fear.
After a long string of proponents, it was then time for the opponents to present their case. And frankly, for the most part that case was weak as well. The vast majority of the opponents trotted out religious reasons why the Council should vote the measure down – and while there is a good religious case against creating a protected class of people who choose to engage in behavior which has been taboo among practically every religion know to man for as long as there has been religion, everybody knows and understands that case and the Left has smeared it by calling it cover for bigotry.
Some of the opponents were more cogent, pointing out the logical infirmities and the road to absurdity presented by the ordinance, and others brought up the religious freedom problems it creates. But on the whole, it wouldn’t be out of order to say that the presentations began as a freakshow and ended as a revival meeting.
The members of the Council fairly quickly seemed to become exhausted – and in particular Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe, who was charged with officiating the circus. Loupe was reduced to mute headshaking at some point late in the proceedings when a proponent of the bill, a black civil rights leader whose name we didn’t catch, appeared at the microphone to speak among the opponents and gave a rambling diatribe about how both sides were appropriating the black civil-rights movement “without asking our opinion.” He then ran well over his time and got his mic cut off, which didn’t even slow him down – and when Loupe began attempting to explain that he was out of order, the speaker accused him of having that opinion “because I don’t agree with you.”
But things devolved completely into hilarity when Jere D. Melilli, M.D., the pastor at Christian Life Fellowship in Baton Rouge, began lecturing the Council on the medical effects of sodomy – including what happens when a penis penetrates a rectum. Melilli was eventually asked to stop because the Council was out of time – which was a polite way for Loupe to declare that he had suffered quite enough for one evening.
Finally, at 8:25, the circus was over.
Or so everyone thought.
Because with five minutes left until mandatory adjournment, Councilman John Delgado, a proponent of the bill who knew his side was well short of the seven votes required to pass it, proceeded to filibuster for the final five minutes until Loupe was forced to adjourn the meeting. Delgado started by saying he’d read the phone book if that’s what it took to run out the clock, and then regaled the crowd with such hilarity as “If you don’t want discrimination lawsuits, don’t discriminate.”
Delgado is a trial lawyer, so you can discern for yourself the level of disingenuousness in that statement. But he managed to get what he wanted, which was to avoid calling the question on a vote his side was going to lose. Instead, the measure lives for another two weeks until it goes down in flames in an actual vote and can’t be brought back up for another year.
Word after the meeting had it that since the votes to pass the measure aren’t there and aren’t going to be there, the next step will be a petition drive in order to put the measure on the ballot – where it’s felt that the public will approve it. Whether that’s true or not is a question, but as tiresome as a political campaign preceding a referendum on the issue would surely be, it couldn’t possibly be any worse than what Baton Rouge was subjected to tonight.