James Gill: If Louisiana Family Forum is for a bill, surely, rational people are against it

Whatever the Louisiana Family Forum is for in the Legislature, any rational being will be against.

Naturally, the forum wins every time. Its latest triumph came last week when legislators declined to remove an anti-gay relic of the dark ages from the books. The law, which criminalizes anal and oral sex, cannot be enforced because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional 11 years ago, but there is no need to be embarrassed by the refusal to repeal it. Thanks, in large measure, to the Forum’s earlier efforts, Louisiana could not possibly be more embarrassed than it already is.

The forum, having forced creationist fairy tales into the science curriculum, is also backing a bill in this session to make the Bible the official state book. The wall of separation cannot withstand the forces of righteousness around here, but the notion of an official state book is so silly that the zealots can have this one.

When Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, filed a bill to do away with the law banning “crime against nature,” the forum showed once again that it believes thoroughly dishonest tactics are acceptable if the cause is Christian. So it was when the forum’s director, Gene Mills, declared he was promoting academic freedom, not sectarian dogma, in sponsoring what was hilariously dubbed the Louisiana Science Education Act. Adam and Eve were duly allowed to take their place in biology class.

The whole world knew that Mills was dissembling then, and a similar level of mendacity was on display when Smith’s bill alarmed the forum by making it out of committee. By the time the bill reached the floor of the House, members had received a letter from the forum replete with outlandish claims about what repeal of the law would mean.

Although it is blindingly obvious that scratching an outmoded and invalid law can have no practical effect whatsoever, legislators overwhelmingly did as they were told.

It would be a calumny to suggest that vote is a measure of our brainpower around here. In fact, it would be a calumny to suggest that vote is a measure of our legislators’ brainpower. Lots of those who voted nay have seemed eminently rational in other debates. They presumably fear the wrath of the forum and are loath to be branded an enemy of the Lord at election time.

But perhaps they underestimate their constituents, who should have no trouble recognizing that the forum’s reasons for opposing the bill are utter pishtosh. It would, according to the forum’s letter, have left children at the mercy of sexual predators. But various statutes impose severe penalties for sexual crimes, on children or adults. Predators are liable to arrest and prosecution all right but not under the law Smith wanted to repeal.

The forum also claimed that, because the Supreme Court opinion applied only to private sex, repealing the state law would encourage gay trysts in parks and playgrounds. More alarmist tripe; we have constitutional laws that prescribe ample punishment for solicitation and obscenity. As for the suggestion that Smith’s bill would spread AIDS, the appropriate response would be a weak smile and a pat on the head.

The forum cannot possibly believe its own letter, and its real objective can only be to proclaim gays beyond the Christian pale. According to the letter sent to legislators, “Louisiana’s anti-sodomy statute is consistent with the values of Louisiana residents who consider this behavior to be dangerous, unhealthy and immoral.” Since the definition of “crime against nature” includes all oral sex, could it be that forum members would be criminals, too, if the Supreme Court hadn’t thrown the statute out? The possibility of hypocrisy cannot be ruled out.

Smith filed her bill after Sheriff Sid Gautreaux’s deputies rounded up gay men in Baton Rouge last year, unaware that the crime against nature law was no longer valid. The arrests attracted nationwide publicity, allowing the impression to arise that Louisiana is a little slow on the uptake. Gautreaux apologized and endorsed Smith’s bill, recognizing that no logical argument could be made for retaining the old law.

The Family Forum did not need one.

James Gill’s email address is jgill@theadvocate.com.