People Acting for Change and Equality (PACE) is very pleased by the results of our third quadrennial Shreveport Mayoral Forum. We had standing-room-only attendance at our forum of at least 160 people. It is very gratifying to see how much progress has been made as a result of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) advocacy since the first mayoral forum in 2006.
Significantly, all of the candidates agreed: the Shreveport Fairness Ordinance, passed on December 10, 2013, is critical to Shreveport’s long-term economic growth. Businesses understand that a diverse pool of well-educated talent is vital to their success, and fairness is critical to attracting that talent. Currently no mayoral appointments have been made to the volunteer Human Relations Commission, but all of the candidates promised to make staffing the commission an urgent priority of their administration.
When asked if the candidates would designate an LGBT member of the Shreveport Police Department as a liaison to the LGBT community, all of the candidates agreed it was a great idea, but they were not all clear as to why an LGBT liaison is important. Many of the candidates confused hate crimes violence with domestic violence. Victoria Provenza was able to articulate how hate crimes differ from domestic violence: domestic violence is violence between individuals in an intimate relationship, while hate crimes are predatory and target individuals based on a perceived bias by the assailant. An LGBT liaison is important because if the LGBT community already fears for their safety because of bigotry within the larger Shreveport community and possibly within the police department, they will be less inclined to report hate crimes to authorities.
All of the candidates stumbled on a question regarding sex reassignment surgery for transgender people. Responses to that question were recorded by the Shreveport Times and can be listened to here. The mayoral forum made it apparent that there is a need for more education and training to bring Shreveport up to speed regarding the needs of the transgender community.
The weakest mayoral candidates coming out of the Mayoral Forum were Anna Marie Arpino and Melvin Slack. They demonstrated a serious lack of understanding regarding hate crimes, transgender issues, or simply being LGBT. Numerous times Ms. Arpino alluded to the idea that LGBT concerns could be mitigated entirely if the LGBT community kept their private lives separate from their work lives while Mr. Slack frequently affirmed the false and antiquated notion that being gay is a choice.
Responses to all of the questions asked at the 2014 PACE Shreveport Mayoral Forum can be downloaded here.
PACE believes it can work successfully with Shreveport’s next mayor, but does acknowledge that education efforts on transgender issues will be important for both the elected mayor and also the city as a whole.
Finally, PACE is very grateful to everyone who attended the Mayoral Forum this past Sunday. One way that we can all act for change and equality is through the democratic process, and being informed is an important component of that activism. If you found the forum to be valuable and would like see more events like the forum happen in and around Shreveport, please become a member of PACE.
For more information about PACE, north Louisiana’s leading advocacy organization for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, go to www.pacelouisiana.org.