BY CANDY PARKER
Late last year, Buffalo-based comedian Kristen Becker penned a heartfelt open letter to Louisiana. The New York-born, Louisiana-raised lesbian described her affection for both of the states she proudly calls “home,” but explained why Louisiana’s anti-gay laws would forever stand in the way of her permanent return to the land of crawfish, creole and gumbo.
Becker went on, providing examples of The Pelican State’s celebration of diversity in other aspects and encouraging the state to revise its laws to reflect the views of individuals there, updating legislation to reflect tolerance rather than remaining mired in outdated bigotry and ignorance.
The letter, originally posted on her website, gained media attention and was published by The Advocate. Ultimately it was read by Kenny Tucker, Political Director for Forum for Equality, who reached out to Becker after reading the personal plea.
It seems Becker’s missive was serendipitous, as Forum for Equality in Louisiana was working hard in support of the House Bill, No. 199 (HB 199), the Louisiana Non-discrimination Act (LANA), which had just been introduced in the state legislature.
Tucker invited the comedian to get involved in helping to raise awareness of the legislation, which includes not only pro-LGBT language but also seeks to defeat other forms of discrimination, and Becker didn’t hesitate to put her talents to work.
“The culture in Louisiana doesn’t match the politics,” said Becker. “The individual people in the state are accepting (of LGBT people), but the power, the politics don’t reflect or support that.”
Becker decided that if she was going to get involved, she was going to throw herself into the effort completely.”I’m just that type of person,” said Becker, “If I say I’m going to help, I’m going to go all out.”
And so it is that Becker is now in Louisiana where she plans to remain until the end of May, organizing and performing in fundraising comedy shows for Forum for Equality. At press time, performances were scheduled in New Orleans (April 24) and Baton Rouge (April 26) with dates and times to be decided for appearances in Lake Charles, Monroe and Shreveport.
Becker’s motivation is simple. “The day that same-sex marriage legislation passed in New York I was ecstatic. I have many close friends in Louisiana and I want them to experience that feeling of elation.”
HB 199 will be voted on by the state House of Representatives at the end of April. If the bill passes the House, as it is expected to do, then a Senate vote is expected in May where proponents expect a tougher battle.
For more information on Becker’s “Becker on the Bayou” tour visit www.kristenbecker.com or follow Becker on Facebook. To donate to Forum for Equality or learn about other ways to get involved in the fight for equal rights in Louisiana visit www.forumforequality.org.
“We really need people to get involved,” said Becker. “Please come to the shows, donate, call your state representatives and senators and just talk to your friends about it and help raise awareness.”