Bizarre council debate rattles nerves, accomplishes nothing
BATON ROUGE- The situation at Wednesday evening's council meeting, where a debate over a proposed fairness ordinance took over just about the entire meeting time, quickly turned bizarre.
Testimony from people on both sides of the issue that would protect gay, transgender and veterans from discrimination on various fronts lasted for hours. People in support of the so-called fairness ordinance and those against it both used the Bible as a reference to why council members should vote a certain way. Business owners also suggested it was about business, by either creating jobs or limiting lawsuits by denying the proposal.
"This is not going to mandate respect," said Pastor Gene Mills, who spoke against the ordinance. "The compulsory effort to dictate that you got to respect and appreciate another person's lifestyle that you may hold a deeply religious belief on, is not the policy of a council."
Nanette Noland spoke for the ordinance: "I'm not so certain that you all have an appreciation for just how far behind we are. Racism is one of our biggest problems in this community. You all are our elected leaders. You have an opportunity to change that."
But, as time was running out, the environment on the third floor of City Hall in downtown became tense and chaotic.
The founder of Christian Life Academy, Dr. Jere Melilli, was asked to stop talking near the end when he went into a graphic discussion about gay sex.
"Therefore bringing about a compromise of the immune system of the body," Melilli explained about how organs react to certain types of intercourse. His comments at the podium could not even fully be aired on broadcast TV.
At one point, Councilwoman Tara Wicker held her hand over her head. Council members asked Melilli to stop talking and move aside.
But, it was not just those against who had dramatic moments as time was coming to an end.
Former minister Reginald Pitcher approached the podium without being recognized and began to speak. "With all respect, I know you didn't call my name," he said as he walked to the comment podium. Many people, especially those who were against the proposal, showed obvious disapproval with his disregard to council meeting rules.
"I'm actually for this ordinance; I was against it," he managed to say before he was silenced.
As the situation calmed, it appeared there might be enough time to vote on the issue, but Councilman John Delgado requested time to speak. Each council member is allotted time to speak before a vote. Delgado's comments pushed the meeting to its 8:30 p.m. required end time.
Delgado, who was for the proposal, said he was not attempting a filibuster but admitted there were not enough votes to pass the ordinance.
Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle, who proposed it, said the council has a lot to consider after hearing what people had to say.
"Testimony speaks for itself," she said. "The people of Baton Rouge speak for themselves. I believe they will continue to email saying how they want their council members to vote."
Delgado is proposing an election to allow voters to decide on the issue.
For now, the council will likely be asked to decide on the issue in its current form at the next council meeting in three weeks.