Monday, April 15, 2024

LaRose: Calls for veto override session from Louisiana Republicans get downright weird

by BIZ Magazine

It’s anyone’s guess at this point whether Louisiana lawmakers will convene for a veto override session late this month, although it’s growing increasingly clear why those in favor want one.

As promised, Gov. John Bel Edwards rejected three bills that target LGBTQ+ youth: a stricter version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law for school employees; a prohibition on the use of names and pronouns at K-12 schools that don’t align with a student’s birth certificate gender identity; and the end of gender-affirming care for transgender minors.

Since the governor issued his vetoes Friday, the calls for a veto override session have gotten, well, really strange.

Take the Louisiana House Republican Caucus, for instance. In an Instagram post, the group expresses its opposition to the governor’s veto of House Bill 648, the ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth.

It features a black-and-white photo of a glowering Edwards superimposed on a flaming hellscape next to a young girl clutching a teddy bear against her face while covering its eyes. “HB 648” is placed at the top of the image which has a bold red “VETOED” stamp placed on the governor’s forehead.

“Defending our children from misguided leadership” is written at the bottom of the image in all caps font. 

“We will persist in advocating for what is right, despite the resistance,” the caucus said in the first comment to the post. “Governor, your judgement (sic) may be off, but our clarity and resolve will not waver.”

Rep. Gabe Firment, author of HB 648, said he has not been actively “lobbying” his colleagues to convene, but he seems to have a gauge on where they stand.  

“Every rep. and senator I’ve talked to is fully on board with a veto override session,” Firment said Monday in an interview with the Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue.

Citizens for a New Louisiana appears to be keeping a tally of lawmakers who support a veto session through its social media posts. The conservative group and its leader, Michael Lunsford, have been behind efforts in multiple parishes to restrict and remove books and materials — most with LGBTQ+ themes — from public libraries.

Reps. Larry Frieman, R-Abita Springs, and Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, are among those supporting a veto session, according to the Twitter feed of Citizens for a New Louisiana.

The group also counts Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, in favor of a veto session, though it doesn’t quote her directly saying so. Horton authored the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that prohibits talk of gender orientation and sexual orientation in K-12 public schools. 

Horton did express herself Sunday through an Instagram post that features an illustration of a man, clad in jeans and a polo, protecting a young child from flaming arrows with a shield. The smiling man holds open the “Holy Bible” within the child’s reach, all while six arrows are lodged and ablaze in his back and wrist.     

In a comment under the image titled “Protect Children,” Horton indicates that she intends to bring her bill back next year.

“It is a shame that our governor has yet again put his liberal policies ahead of protecting your rights as a parent and the innocence of YOUR children!” Horton wrote. “I’m looking forward to getting this signed into law next year when we have a strong Republican governor.” 

Even U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre, weighed in on Edwards’ veto of Firment’s bill. In a Twitter post, he essentially issues a challenge to the Republican-majority legislature.

“We the People demand a veto-override session,” Higgins wrote.

If the calls for a veto override session were simply labeled weird, they might just be acknowledged as bizarre entertainment. But much like the three anti-LGBTQ+ bills, there is a religious bent to the effort.

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, hosted pastors at a church gathering June 24 to “… begin the first steps to stand against the Governor’s threat to veto each of these three foundational pieces of legislation that would protect our children and parents rights.”

It hardly seems Christian for Hodges and faith leaders to advocate that an already marginalized and vulnerable community be vilified. But as evidenced during the legislative session, there’s a huge difference between being Christian and Christ-like.

Greg LaRose is editor of the Louisiana Illuminator and has covered news in Louisiana for more than 30 years.

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