One of the Louisiana Legislature’s most outspoken advocates for abused women withdrew her bill expanding the definition of domestic abuse a day after she reportedly threatened violence against a fellow lawmaker and had to be pulled away from an argument that occurred on the floor of the Louisiana House.
“For the sake of the body, I am disappointed that we have to let down the victims of domestic violence,” Rep. Malinda White (D-Bogalusa), a survivor of abuse, said from the House floor Thursday as she fought back tears. “To the victims: I will be back next session with an improved bill, and we will pass it.”
White’s House Bill 159 would have stated explicitly that Louisiana’s definition of domestic abuse includes coercion and other forms of control. White called her bill a clarification of existing law. It aimed to protect spouses and dating partners.
On Wednesday, White clashed with Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) who, White said, “told me that I didn’t know about my domestic abuse bill that we had worked on for four years and I had lived for seven years under control of coercion and abuse. There is nothing I don’t know about (domestic abuse), so no one is going to come tell me I don’t know about that when I lived it.”
White threatened to get her gun as she argued with Seabaugh, he told multiple news outlets. “When I said you’re not a lawyer and you don’t understand, she completely lost her mind,” Seabaugh told The Advocate. “As she was dragged away, she said either ‘I’m going to get my gun and finish this’ or ‘Let me get my gun and we’ll finish this.’”
White returned to the floor of the House later Wednesday and apologized “for the disturbance on the floor that was not necessary. I do sincerely apologize for that, and I just wanted everyone to know that.”
According to an LSU law professor who supported White’s bill during an April committee hearing, Louisiana has more than “38 different statutes with different definitions of domestic violence.” White’s bill would have defined domestic abuse as “any act or threat to act that is intended to coerce, control, punish, intimidate, or exact revenge on the other party for the purpose of preventing the victim from reporting to law enforcement or requesting medical assistance or emergency victim services, or for the purpose of depriving the victim of the means or ability to resist the abuse or escape the relationship.” That definition would have replaced the other definitions currently on Louisiana’s books.
White had encountered opposition before her clash with Seabaugh. White said the Louisiana Family Forum, the conservative Christian advocacy group, didn’t want the term “dating partners” used in her bill.
Gene Mills, president of the Louisiana Family Forum, did not return messages seeking comment about his organization’s opposition.