Metro Weekly

Louisiana Gov.-elect Edwards to sign nondiscrimination order

Order will prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in state employment and government contracting

John Bel Edwards (Photo via Facebook).
John Bel Edwards (Photo via Facebook).

Louisiana’s incoming governor John Bel Edwards (D) will issue an executive order protecting LGBT individuals who are state employees or government contractors from employment discrimination and harassment, The Times-Picayune reports.

Edwards’ office did not release details as to when he will issue the executive order, but The Times-Picayune notes that it will likely occur sometime after he is sworn in on Jan. 11, 2016. Examples of those covered by the order would include employees of universities or state-run hospitals.

The executive order is similar in scope to executive orders issued by Louisiana’s last two Democratic governors, Edwin Edwards and Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, as well as on the local level in Jefferson and Lafayette Parishes and in the city of East Baton Rouge. While Edwards’ order would not extend to private employers, the cities of New Orleans and Shreveport do have local ordinances that prohibit employment discrimination in both the public and private sector. Still, most private employers can terminate LGBT individuals without cause throughout the rest of the state.

Edwards’ announcement that he will issue the executive order stands in direct contrast to outgoing Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), the once-popular governor and former 2016 presidential candidate who has seen his popularity erode throughout his term. When Jindal first took office, he rescinded Blanco’s executive order by saying LGBT protections were “unnecessary.” Earlier this spring, Jindal issued an executive order that carved out exemptions and established so-called “conscience protections” for those who oppose same-sex marriage or homosexuality in general, by preventing the government from denying tax credits, grants, contracts or certification to those individuals or businesses who wish to deny service to LGBT people.

LGBT advocates praised the bold move by Edwards, who was criticized by some liberal Democrats outside of Louisiana for being too conservative during his campaign in the run-off election against sitting Sen. David Vitter (R).

“People deserve not to be fired from their jobs because of who they are,” said Matthew Patterson of Equality Louisiana. 

“We are certainly looking forward to having a governor that makes human rights a priority,” added Sarah Jane Brady, of the LGBT advocacy group Forum for Equality.

But predictably, Edwards’ plan to issue the executive order has raised the ire of conservative Christian groups, who are vowing to fight it. The Louisiana Family Forum says it opposes the order because it violates the religious liberty of state workers and contractors who oppose same-sex relationships. The organization has previously enjoyed success in defeating bills that would have attempted to make nondiscrimination protections for state workers and contractors permanent by working in tandem with the Republican-dominated legislature.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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