The Equality Bus in the Bayou State
September 5, 2011
Our next stop “On the Road to Equality” was Louisiana, where we visited the campus of Tulane University. Like so many other states across the country, Louisiana does not offer LGBT-inclusive workplace protections for its citizens, and Louisiana law and the state constitution both ban recognition of marriages between same-sex couples. However, people like State Representative Helena Moreno are working hard to ensure LGBT people in her state have access to the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
This year, Representative Moreno introduced a second-parent adoption bill that would recognize two parents as legal guardians to a child or children originally adopted by a single person. Currently in Louisiana, couples who are not married can not adopt children together. And since same-sex couples can’t get married, they can’t legally adopt children together. Representative Moreno and Forum for Equality, the statewide equality organization in Louisiana, did amazing work with this legislation this year, and even though the bill failed, it made it farther in the legislature than ever before – a sign that hearts and minds in Louisiana are changing.
Our Equality Exhibit was set up at Tulane in the Lavin-Bernick student center on Thursday and Friday. And while we’re used to a little bit of weather after almost a month on the road, we did not expect to encounter a tropical storm! That’s right, shortly after arriving to the Big Easy, we were met with news that Tropical Storm Lee had formed in the Golf of Mexico and he had set his sights on New Orleans. But that didn’t stop the hundreds of folks, coming from all over, from coming to see our exhibit and share what equality means to them. We spoke to a college freshmen whose two moms taught her to always fight for what’s right, which is why she was anxious to get in touch with HRC’s local steering committee in New Orleans to learn about volunteer opportunities. We met two high school seniors who had established a GSA at their school in response to bullying they had witnessed. We talked with a man and woman who had driven over 50 miles to see our exhibit because their nephew had just come out as transgender and they wanted to learn more about ways they could be supportive.
Thursday night, HRC Vice President Fred Sainz led a forum called “On the Cusp of Equality.” Nearly 100 people packed into the venue to participate in a discussion on whether or not we’re at a tipping point in the LGBT equality movement. Folks asked great questions, and shared amazing personal stories, and sparked debate on a wide variety of topics.
We are so grateful to everyone who came out to the bus. For anyone in the New Orleans area looking for local volunteer opportunities, make sure you contact our local steering committee!