(NEXSTAR) — Did you know you’re required by Louisiana state law to wear a mask at Mardi Gras if you’re on a parade float. More, did you know it’s illegal to wear a mask in Louisiana if it’s not Mardi Gras?
According to Louisiana law: “Wearing of masks, hoods, or other facial disguises in public places prohibited; penalty; exceptions; permit to conduct Mardi Gras festivities…” A New Orleans city ordinance also prohibits wearing masks after 6 p.m. on Mardi Gras.
This type of anti-mask law aims to prevent Ku Klux Klan activities, and at least 12 states currently have anti-mask laws for the same purpose. The Louisiana law was challenged by a Klan leader in 1996 but was ruled to be constitutional. Members of the KKK have also challenged similar laws in other states.
Meanwhile, the Mardi Gras float mask requirement ties back to tradition. As the New Orleans official site explains:
“Masking became a tradition because, during early Carnivals, people put on masks to be able to mingle outside their class and keep their reputation untarnished. Float riders are required to wear masks by law in keeping with the mystery and tradition…”
“Riding on a float is a privilege and wearing a mask is sacred,” Jonathan Bertucceli, owner of the Studio 3 design studio, which makes Mardi Gras floats, told Reader’s Digest.
Bertucceli explained that masks allow people to “cut loose” and “act as foolish as they want because nobody knows who you are.”
There are exceptions, though. There are certain instances in which some masks are allowed.
Louisiana law allows children to wear masks on Halloween. Head and face coverings related to religious beliefs or customs are allowed as are masks worn for educational purposes (such as historical re-enactments). People at masquerade balls, carnival parades and authorized circus or amusement events can mask up as well.
Motorcycle helmets and medical masks — obviously including COVID-19 masks — are also allowed.
However, sex offenders in Louisiana can’t wear masks on any day for any reason.