By Robert Mann
Remember the bipartisan uproar in the Louisiana Legislature in May when state Rep. Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville, offered an amendment requiring that female strippers be no older than 28 and weigh less than 160 pounds?
The response to Havard’s repulsive stunt was satisfying. Maybe, I thought, the Legislature has finally entered an era in which misogyny and sexist behavior are out of bounds.
My hope was premature. Judging by the troubling silence in the House and Senate over the recent arrest of state Sen. Troy Brown, D-Geismar, on charges of domestic abuse (his second such arrest since November), lawmakers are still stuck in the dark ages.
Make a joke in the House about the age and weight of strippers (a population at risk for human trafficking) and you might endure a few rebukes for disrespecting women. But get arrested twice on charges of violence against women? Well, except for a few complaints, it’s been mostly crickets.
In May, Havard sensibly pulled his amendment to an anti-sex-trafficking bill, later explaining his language was meant to lampoon a bill he regarded as unnecessary – although why he voted for the legislation is a mystery.
Some of Havard’s colleagues reacted with appropriate horror. “I’ve never been more repulsed to be part of” the House, Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, said, who called Havard’s amendment “utterly disrespectful and disgusting.”
Stokes was correct to denounce Havard, as were other critics. If only lawmakers were equally horrified by Brown’s alleged criminal behavior.
Brown has pled not guilty and, in court, he is rightly presumed innocent. His Senate colleagues, however, might wish to take note that Brown acknowledged last November “there was an altercation involving myself and two or three other individuals.”
Specifically, Brown is accused of punching a woman in the eye during an altercation at the New Orleans Hyatt Regency. The woman – she told police she was Brown’s longtime “side friend” – also alleged that Brown would intimidate, threaten and assault her “every few months.”
At the time, he acknowledged he had a problem. “I commit to getting the help I need to resolve the medical issues [he cited ‘brain damage,’ ‘short-term memory loss’ and ‘social alcohol consumption’] which I believe contributed to this incident,” he said in a statement.
After his latest arrest – Brown is charged with misdemeanor domestic abuse for allegedly biting his wife, Toni Brown, on the arm – the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office tried unsuccessfully to increase Brown’s bond on the first charge. In a court filing on Wednesday, prosecutors said Brown poses an “imminent danger to the community,” citing Toni Brown’s allegation of years of domestic violence and abuse by her husband as evidence.
It is not clear if Brown has received the treatment he said he needed after his initial arrest. What Brown should receive, however, is a speedy exit from the Senate. For the good of his constituents and the integrity of the Senate, he should resign. If he won’t, his colleagues should expel him.
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