Today, Edwards signed an executive order protecting state employees, as well as employees of state contractors and people receiving state services, from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Previous legislative efforts to include LGBT protections in nondiscrimination laws have failed. Edwards' order creates protections from discrimination on the "basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, disability, or age," and extends that protection in services provided by state agencies.
There still are no statewide nondiscrimination laws protecting all LGBT people. Edwards' order also recognizes exemptions for churches and religious organizations. (A "Pastor Protection Act" filed by state Rep. Mike Johnson received committee support yesterday.)
"We are fortunate enough to live in a state that is rich with diversity, and we are built on a foundation of unity and fairness for all of our citizens,” Edwards said in a statement. “We respect our fellow citizens for their beliefs, but we do not discriminate based on our disagreements. ... While this executive order respects the religious beliefs of our people, it also signals to the rest of the country that discrimination is not a Louisiana value, but rather, that Louisiana is a state that is respective and inclusive of everyone around us.”
Edwards also rescinded Bobby Jindal's "Marriage and Conscience Act" executive order filed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision allowing same-sex marriages in all 50 states. Edwards said Jindal's order “was meant to serve a narrow political agenda" that did "nothing but divide our state and forced the business community, from Louisiana’s smallest businesses to large corporations, like IBM, to strongly oppose it. This executive order threatens Louisiana’s business growth, and it goes against everything we stand for– unity, acceptance, and opportunity for all.”
The order follows several southern states' controversial trans discrimination measures, including North Carolina's "bathroom" law and Mississippi's new law allowing businesses to deny services to same-sex couples — both measures have faced national backlash and protest. Edwards is the first governor in the deep South to issue a nondiscrimination order for transgender people.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has issued the first statewide measure creating legal protection for transgender people in Louisiana.