- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Louisiana House agreed Wednesday to block strip clubs from hiring dancers under the age of 21, but only after a lawmakers’ joke that strippers should be young and less than 160 pounds provoked outrage about the treatment of women in the chamber.

The Senate-backed proposal to raise the age was described as a way to fight human trafficking.

But the proposal prompted snickering and jokes from several lawmakers in the House - and an amendment from Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, to limit strippers to between 21 and 28 years old and no more than 160 pounds.

He quickly withdrew the amendment. But some female lawmakers were not amused.

Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, stormed to the microphone and said: “Looking out over this body, I’ve never been so repulsed to be a part of it.”

Stokes described the amendment as “utterly disrespectful and disgusting” and urged her colleagues to treat women with respect. She said she’s regularly seen women treated differently than men in the House.

“It’s got to stop,” she said.

Havard said the amendment was a commentary about overregulation, not aimed at women. He noted strip clubs hire both men and women, and his amendment didn’t specify gender.

“People can’t take a joke these days,” he said after the debate ended.

While Havard said he respects Stokes, he didn’t intend to apologize to her.

“Political correctness is killing us. I’m not going to apologize,” he said. “I figured it would probably offend somebody, but it’s America. You have a right to be offended and get offended.”

Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, also raised concerns about the bill, saying the state doesn’t enact age restrictions on other professions.

“I don’t know how we can praise and rejoice the virtues of liberty when it’s convenient and then reject them when it’s inconvenient,” Brown said.

Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, urged support of the bill, saying it could improve lives.

“In this type of business, there are young women who are preyed upon because of the circumstances they find themselves in,” he said.

The House voted 96-0 for the bill Wednesday - without the amendment attached. Havard and Brown voted for the bill, which heads back to the Senate for approval of a technical change.

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Senate Bill 468: www.legis.la.gov


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