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Friday, September 30, 2016

Gov. Edwards sues AG Landry over LGBT protections

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 6:00 PM

click to enlarge Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry rejected more than 30 state contracts because of LGBT protections. Gov. John Bel Edwards's lawsuit asks the court to get Landry to do his job. - CREATIVE COMMONS/GAGE SKIDMORE
  • Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry rejected more than 30 state contracts because of LGBT protections. Gov. John Bel Edwards's lawsuit asks the court to get Landry to do his job.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry rejected more than 30 state contracts because he refuses to follow an executive order from Gov. John Bel Edwards protecting LGBT employees of the state as well as contractors and their employees. In a lawsuit Edwards filed in Judicial District Court Sept. 30, Edwards argues Landry "explicitly" rejected the contracts including those protections, in accordance with Edwards' executive order, and that Landry "apparently believes that it is necessary that private attorneys who contract with entities within the executive branch must retain the right to discriminate against the persons on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity."

In April, Edwards issued an executive order to protect LGBT employees of the state and state contractors and their employees from workplace discrimination, creating the first statewide protections for transgender people. Previous legislative efforts to include LGBT protections in nondiscrimination laws have failed. There still are no statewide nondiscrimination laws protecting all LGBT people.

Edwards lists more than 30 contracts between state agencies and private counsels that Landry has rejected because of language enforcing those protections. It's the latest move in the ongoing rift between Edwards and Landry over LGBT rights. In May, a month after Edwards issued the executive order, Landry argued he doesn't have to follow it, saying, "there is no constitutional or statutory provision in Louisiana banning discrimination on the basis of 'gender identity'" and that Edwards has overstepped his constitutional authority "by attempting to create new legislation in violation of the separation of powers." That month, Landry also added Louisiana to a multi-state suit opposing a plan from the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of Education for transgender students in schools. (Landry, speaking with the right wing Christian conservative lobbying group Family Research Council, said, "The good Lord doesn’t build us in that particular way.")

click to enlarge Gov. John Bel Edwards. - PHOTO BY ROBIN MAY
  • Photo by Robin May
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Edwards and Landry met today hoping to reach a compromise or agreement over the three dozen contracts that Landry has refused, which Edwards says has caused an "ever-increasing disruption of the ability of the executive branch to perform the tasks of governing the state." Landry didn't budge; Edwards filed the suit. Edwards asks that the court order a writ of mandamus, essentially ordering Landry to do his duties as instructed by Edwards.

There is a court hearing set for Oct. 16.

Landry has fought against LGBT rights for several years, including demanding that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL) drop a sociology minor in LGBT studies back in 2012. "It fails to provide an economic benefit to the participants or financial sense for the taxpayer," Landry said. Nicholas Landry — his brother, who is gay — wrote to his brother on Facebook: "In reference to your recent quest to remove the LGBT minor from the UL curriculum, I want to state my opposition publicly. Ignorance is not education. Your constituents, heterosexual and homosexual alike, have made huge inroads in working towards equality in our community. By embracing diversity and acknowledging our differences, we gain understanding. Understanding is education."

Landry also was in Washington D.C. this week facing the House Judiciary Committee, where he slammed New Orleans as a "sanctuary city" for criminals living in the country illegally and as a “magnet” for illegal immigration. Landry previously blamed Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration and the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) following a bus crash in LaPlace that killed three people, including St. John Fire District Chief Spencer Chauvin. The driver, Denis Amaya-Rodriguez, was living in the U.S. without legal permission. Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Communications Director Tyronne Walker said Landry’s argument “is sad and defies logic.”

“The accident didn’t take place in New Orleans and no one involved lived in New Orleans,” Walker said. “This waste of public time and money ... to put on a political show in Washington, D.C. is shameful.”

It's not the first time Landry came down on New Orleans as a "sanctuary city." Landry supported a measure from state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, to prevent cities that house immigrants without state authorization from receiving certain funding, a red herring in the wake of the U.S. Department of Justice consent decree with the NOPD that outlines the department's relationship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and its policies for officers questioning immigration status.

Landry said those policies provide "terrorists safe haven in American cities."

NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand argued that tracking immigrants is a federal job, not a local one, and a strain on local resources.

"You want to cure the problem? Fund it," Normand told the Louisiana Senate Judiciary A Committee May 25. "Don't come down here with some bullshit Republican philosophy from Washington D.C. ... and tell me how to do my business."

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