Wednesday, July 28, 2010

One Baton Rouge resolution pulled from agenda

One Baton Rouge resolution pulled from agenda

The sponsors of a proposed One Baton Rouge resolution expressing tolerance of the city’s gay population pulled the resolution from the Metro Council’s agenda Wednesday.

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker and Councilwoman Alison Casio said there was no point in going forward because they lack the votes to pass the resolution.

“It’s not going to pass,” Walker said shortly before the meeting. “We don’t have the votes. Let’s move on.”

The resolution, on the agenda for introduction Wednesday, would have then gone to a council committee and the full council for public hearings.

The One Baton Rouge resolution had prompted heated debate, including an open letter to Mayor-President Kip Holden and the council signed by more than 50 local church pastors opposed to the resolution.

The open letter, published as a full page ad in The Advocate on Wednesday, called homosexuality a sin and said that gays should not be afforded “special recognition.”

The ad continued, “We believe you are being encouraged to press an agenda that has long-range implications. We plead with you to drop this agenda. It will divide good-hearted citizens whose consciences are offended by a resolution that is wholly unnecessary.”

Walker, Cascio and other council members said they have been inundated in recent days with e-mails and phone calls about the One Baton Rouge resolution.

Cascio said she didn’t want to see the hostile tone of some of the opposition play out in public at the council.

She said that type of debate would be more damaging to the city’s image than pulling the item from the agenda.

“For whatever reason, people just get fired up over this issue,” Cascio said.

The resolution was meant to recognize people of different sexual orientations as a welcome part of the community and that there was never any intent to confer special recognition to gays, she said.

Joe Traigle, a gay Baton Rouge businessman who had spearheaded the resolution, said its failure sends a bad signal to the rest of the country about Louisiana’s capital city as a place to do business.

He said many progressive cities go well beyond non-binding tolerance resolutions and have local laws specifically prohibiting discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation.

The proposed resolution stated that Baton Rouge “has a strong commitment to diversity and equal opportunity for all of our citizens, including recognition and integration of people of all colors, religions, sexual orientations, nationalities and people of all abilities and all walks of life into every aspect of Baton Rouge community life so that we all will be enriched by one another.”

Walker had voted against a similar resolution on a previous council in 2007.

But he said he agreed to co-sponsor the resolution this time because of a wording change — from acceptance to recognition — that addressed his concerns.

“I would love for us as a community to say to each other, ‘I love you as a brother or a sister and I recognize your existence as a human being,’ ” Walker said.

He said he is going to encourage people on both sides of the issue to come together to come up with a diversity resolution that will be satisfactory to all parties.

“We need this to be able to compete with other cities,” Walker said.

Although he endorsed the One Baton Rouge resolution in 2007, Holden remained on the sidelines of the debate over the issue this year.

The business community, through the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, also took no position on the resolution.

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