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A New Louisiana Bill Is Another Step Backwards For Southern Politics in 2016

What the hell is going on in Dixieland?


In what looks another troubling step backwards for Southern states bent on tightening the definition of “liberty”, the Louisiana legislature passed a bill on Wednesday, HB 953, that requires women to wait 72 hours after their state-mandated ultrasound to receive an abortion. Most states with mandated wait times cap that duration at 24 hours, but as the legislative director for Louisiana Right to Life puts it, "Many [women] come to regret their decision later in life," said Deanna Wallace in an interview with Reuters, adding that new rule is “empowering them with additional time to consider all of the options.” Extra-long waiting periods have also been implemented in North Carolina (surprise!), Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah. (Something tells me there’s a Full Frontal with Samantha Bee sketch that addresses forced deliberation time for women seeking abortions… Oh, yeah. It’s here.)

Empowering seems like a strange word from Wallace since laws that keep you from exercising your own free will feel inherently disempowering, but this is just the latest move by a southern state to restrict the freedoms of women and LGBT citizens below the Mason-Dixon line. We all know by now about the situation in North Carolina. The HB2 “bathroom bill” restricts access to bathrooms for trans people, and on Tuesday a school board in the state voted in a rule that says students can carry “defensive sprays” into high school bathrooms for protection purposes. So what’s the reason for suddenly letting kids carry mace to class? Let Chuck Hughes, a member of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, explain his reasoning to you:

“Depending on how the courts rule on the bathroom issues, it may be a pretty valuable tool to have on the female students if they go to the bathroom, not knowing who may come in.” Well, at least they agreed that “straight-edge razors” were a step too far, because that would just be crazy, right?

Elsewhere in the South, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed a bill back in March that allows churches, religious charities and private businesses to refuse service to people if it would infringe upon their beliefs regarding marriage and gender. In other words: Business and churches don’t have to serve LGBT people. And Tennessee has a “bathroom bill” of its own on the books very similar to North Carolina’s, requiring people to use the facility that corresponds to the gender they were assigned at birth.

Jumping back to Louisiana’s new HB 953 bill, let’s also be aware that within that legislation there is language classifying violence against police, firefighters and EMTs as a hate crime. The protection extends to both active and retired law enforcement officers. Anna Merlan at Jezebel gives a good explanation of why classifying violence against an occupational category as a hate crime is pretty hinky, saying, “Being a law enforcement officer is a job, not a fixed, immutable identity like race, gender or sexual orientation: the things at the center of actual hate crimes.” And considering the frequency of black people being killed by police offers in the Southeastern corner of the United States, it feels like a law ensuring the protection of police officers against hate is, well, an ass backwards point of view in 2016.

And speaking of police, law enforcement officers in Tampa, Florida were slow to make themselves available for protection duty at Beyoncé’s Formation tour because they perceived her as “anti-police,” and officers in Houston boycotted the hometown concert she played earlier this week. This all comes months after a Tennessee sheriff actually blamed Beyoncé’s “Formation” music video specifically for shots fired outside his home after her Super Bowl halftime show performance, and generally for a spike in violence against police across the country. Sure. People could be angry at cops because Beyoncé incited them to violence, or maybe it’s the whole “killing unarmed black civilians” image problem that law enforcement is dealing with right now. We’re pretty sure it’s that, actually.

This is a map of where more than 300 black citizens were killed by police across the United States in 2015. Image courtesy of Mapping Police Violence.

This all amounts to a troubling trend that feels like The South staking its 21st century identity on subjugating the rights of women, racial minorities and LGBT people. Considering the history of the region, that’s a really, really bad idea! Germany understands history, which is why the country just introduced legislation to finally expunge the criminal records of tens of thousands of men “convicted” of homosexuality under a law called Paragraph 175. Most of those arrests happened during World War II when Adolph Hitler was implementing his Final Solution to purge Germany of impure people. Justice Minister Heiko Maas said, “the state has burdened itself with guilt,” and that, “We will never be able to eliminate completely these outrages by the state, but we want to rehabilitate the victims.”

Heiko, of course, was referencing WWII and the Holocaust, and he seems to understands that a national wound like that can never really be healed, which means the State must constantly take action to make reparations for history. Inequality in the United States is surely a national problem. Without question. But the specific chunk of this country that decided slavery was worth going to war for should probably be doing a better job reminding people that the South—where Jim Crow laws existed until just 50 years ago—isn’t what it used to be.

The Confederacy was a bad look, and it’s one that just doesn’t have a place in this day and age.

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