Last week, at the urging of the Louisiana Family Forum and its Executive Director, Gene Mills, the Louisiana legislature killed House Bill 112, also known as the Safe Schools Bill. The bill sought to better protect school children from bullying, but that’s not how Gene Mills saw it. Mills rebranded HB 112 as the “Homosexual Bullying Bill.” Mike Hasten of Gannett reports (bold mine), “What should have been a debate over what we could do in House Bill 112 to protect our children became a homophobic witch hunt. At the core of it was Gene Mills, the director of a conservative religious group called the Louisiana Family Forum.”
As Mills proved last week, he may be one of “the most powerful” influences in Louisiana, as he was recently described by The Baton Rouge Advocate, but if so, he’s also one of the most destructive influences in Louisiana.
Consider this: Yesterday, the Texas State Senate, one of the most conservative bodies in the country, unanimously approved HB 1942, an anti-bullying bill almost identical to the one the Louisiana legislature defeated at the behest of Mills and the Louisiana Family Forum. Later yesterday afternoon, the Texas State Senate passed HB 1386, a teen suicide prevention bill that “was originally called Asher’s Law in honor of Asher Brown, the 13-year gay youth from the Houston area who took his own life last year in response to bullying at school.”
I wonder what Mills would say if the Louisiana legislature ever dared to consider a teen suicide prevention bill named in honor of a gay teenager who killed himself after being tormented by bullying. Would this also qualify as a “Homosexual Bullying Bill”?
Yesterday, I focused on Mills’s flippant, gloating response to his lobbying victory, but there is much more to the story.
The Louisiana Family Forum repeatedly and publicly lied about the content and the intent of HB 112. They advanced a completely disingenuous and utterly absurd series of talking points. If the 54 men and women in the legislature who voted against this bill were more concerned with doing their job than with appeasing a small group of well-paid and well-connected lobbyists masquerading as religious leaders, then they could have easily picked apart Mills and the Louisiana Family Forum. Gene Mills may prefer to be called “Reverend Mills,” but the truth is, Mr. Mills is actually the one and only officially registered lobbyist for Louisiana Family Forum Action, the LFF’s 501c4 and an organization that reports an income of over $180,000, even though it only has less than $800 in assets.
According to Mills’s lobbying disclosure reports, the bulk of the money he spends on behalf of the LFFA is for an annual legislative awards banquet. For at least the last two years, Mills has spent nearly $50,000 on these events, treating selected state representatives and senators to a fancy dinner at the Crowne Plaza in Baton Rouge and doling out dozens of plaques and trophies, honoring the elected officials who supported the LFF’s legislative agenda. I’m sure it’s a feel-good event: Everyone gets a great meal and goes home with an award. Last year, Senator Ben Nevers (D- Bogalusa) was one of several legislators honored by the Louisiana Family Forum with their “Family Advocate Award.” Senator Nevers introduced the Louisiana Science Education Act, on behalf of the LFF, and currently chairs the Louisiana State Senate Education Committee. Even though Senator Nevers is a Democrat, Mills and the LFF were more than happy to treat him to a $39.17 dinner and hand him a piece of brass for being a loyal foot solider and putting forward the LSEA because they essentially told him to.
Senator Elbert Guillory, the African-American Democrat who made statewide news after endorsing the Louisiana Family Forum’s blatantly illegal Congressional redistricting plan, didn’t win any awards from the LFF last year, but as Mills’s reports indicate, Elbert Guillory was obviously very important to him. As a refresher, Elbert Guillory is also the guy who was forced to resign from his position as Seattle, Washington’s Human Rights Director after allegedly awarding and then overseeing a contract to his then-fiancee’s company and who was previously found by the Louisiana Office of Disciplinary Council to have violated multiple Rules of Professional Conduct in his capacity as an attorney. Gene Mills didn’t spend an inordinate amount of money lobbying Senator Guillory, but as his own reports demonstrate, he still spent more courting Senator Guillory than anyone else.
But I digress.
To be continued…