Baton Rouge, La. – Approximately 50 people showed up at the Unitarian Church last Tuesday to attend a forum sponsored by the Louisiana chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU). Held in conjunction with the Social Justice Council of the church, the forum was titled “Same Sex Marriage: Is It a Church-State Issue?” and featured two prominent speakers – Prof. John Devlin of the LSU Law Center, and Mr. Joe Traigle, a local business owner and activist. The forum was moderated by retired psychologist Dr. Tom Hannie, Jr.
“Given the advances made by gays and lesbians in the last year alone, we feel this topic is a very timely one,” said Patti Garner, president of the chapter. “We also tried to get speakers from the ‘conservative’ side of this issue, but none of them accepted our invitation. Still, we feel the audience members learned a great deal from this forum.”
The first speaker, John Devlin, gave an overview of the legal history of same-sex marriage, and what proponents of gay marriage might expect in the coming months. When asked whether the Supreme Court, should they decide to hear the case, will uphold Proposition 8 – the decision banning gay marriage in California – he thought for a moment then responded, “I just don’t know. I’d hate to think that a decision this important will come down to one person, one Supreme Court justice, but that may well be what happens.”
Joe Traigle, one of the sponsors of the failed One Baton Rouge resolution that would have openly accepted gays and lesbians in the community, was a little more forthcoming when asked about tolerance in our city. He spoke about the five “Tier One” cities – Austin; Nashville; Portland, Oregon; Raleigh-Durham and Richmond, Virginia – and described how those cities “don’t have non-binding or binding resolutions, they have laws. If you discriminate against gays in those cities, you’re breaking the law.” Baton Rouge, he said, will likely never have such a law.
After hearing from both of the speakers, a question-and-answer session was held. Assisted by Dr. Hannie, roughly one-dozen audience members stepped up to the microphone to ask questions.
Anyone wanting additional information on the Louisiana AU chapter can contact them via email at AU.Louisiana@gmail.com .
The Louisiana chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State was formed in mid-2008. It is a watchdog group that tracks violations of church and state separation throughout Louisiana. Those wanting additional information on the chapter should contact them at AU.Louisiana@gmail.com  or visit the website at www.au-la.intuitwebsites.com.