Legislative Updates: Controversial Conservative Education Bill Draws Ire of Democratic Legislators; Bill Addressing LGBTQ Housing Discrimination Receives Push Back From Republicans

H-F History Class” by U.S. Army Public Affairs, Midwest is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The gun industry is in. The LGBTQ community is out. 

Housing discrimination against the LGBTQ community could continue for at least another year after the defeat of HB 282 by Aimee Freeman earlier this week by a vote of 4-7 in the House Commerce Committee. All the Democrats on the committee voted for the legislation while the Republican majority all voted against it.

The bill would have prohibited landlords from unjustly treating tenants based on their sexual orientation. Federal law already prohibits the ability of home sellers or landlords to evict tenants or refuse to sell a property because the renter or buyer is LGBTQ. HB 282 would have aligned state law with federal law. 

Freeman expressed her concern that legislators seem willing to discriminate against the gay community while supporting legislation the gun industry. “I don’t get it. We worry about people who sell firearms, but don’t worry about discriminating against the LGBTQ community,” Freeman told committee members.

Worthwhile Classroom Discussion Topics or Republican Brainwashing?

The House Education Committee today passed out HB 352 by Denham Springs Republican Valerie Hodges that would add new required subjects to the curriculum of public school history and civic classes – often a pre-requisite for high school graduation. Some minority and women legislators believe the legislation smacks of sexism and systemic racism and attempts to rewrite history. 

History and civics classes have always taught students traditional democratic values such as inalienable rights, separation of powers, free elections and the rule of law. Now Hodges, a former missionary, wants to legislate the addition of conservative inspired ideology that the mainstream political right applauds. 

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) establishes curriculum in all subject areas. Every ten years BESE puts together a standards review panel to recommend curriculum changes. This legislation would insert new classroom discussion topics into the curriculum without BESE input.  Ethan Melancon, a BESE representative, spoke out against the legislation as did representatives of Stand for Children, Louisiana Progress Action, and Louisiana Association of Charter Schools.   

Charter school association leader Caroline Roemer said that curriculum decisions were best made closest to students by parents and educators.  

Hodges bill requires that a discussion of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Federalist Papers, the Gettysburg Address, National Sovereignty, American exceptionalism, Globalism and the United Nations and Immigration policy be added into the curriculum.  

The bill further requires that discussion of these topics begin in kindergarten. 

Hodges brought in Texas self-taught historian and influential right wing author and evangelist David Barton as an expert witness. A nationally recognized religious patriot, Barton believes that the Founding Fathers always intended to construct a Christian nation. His company, Wallbuilders, promotes a view that America was founded as a Christian nation and thus should be ruled by biblical principles. Barton is a strong opponent of the LGBTQ community. Barton waxed on about the importance of the suggested curriculum improvements.

Although the instrument innocently appears to promote an understanding of the history and values of “ordinary Americans,” it really seeks to politicize educational content and create political talking points. New classroom topics would include the importance of a free enterprise system, the benefits of capitalism, private property, constitutional liberties, the value of a constitutional republic and traditional standards of moral values. 

Republican state Rep Stephanie Hilferty attempted unsuccessfully to turn the legislation into a study with BESE’s participation. Democratic State Rep. Tammy Phelps of Shreveport did her best to derail the legislation by making a motion to involuntarily defer it. She valiantly told the committee that “there is no regard for us sitting in this room.”  

Only five legislators (out of 13) voted to defer the legislation. New Orleans State Rep. Aimee Freeman was among that group. Controversial Education Committee Chairman did not preside over the bill’s discussion but did enter the meeting room in time to support the bill.  

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