Louisiana governor signs order to protect LGBT state workers

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an anti-discrimination executive order on Wednesday for LGBT state workers, marking the first time the state’s government has provided protection for its transgender employees.

The order forbids discrimination against state workers and state contractors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Under former governors Kathleen Blanco and Edwin Edwards, gay and lesbian state workers were protected under similar executive orders, but those did not apply to transgender members of the LGBT community.

“We respect our fellow citizens for their beliefs, but we do not discriminate based on our disagreements,” Edwards said in a statement. “I believe in giving every Louisianan the opportunity to be successful and to thrive in our state. Our goal is to promote the opportunities we have right here in Louisiana. 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.”

The order allows for exemption in religious groups “who believe that complying with a nondiscrimination decree would violate their religious beliefs,” NOLA.com reported. Several religious organizations work with parts of state government to provide certain social services, including in the areas of health care and adoption.

The executive order, which Edwards signed during his first four months of a four-year term, can be reversed by the next governor. It applies only to employees that he oversees and it does not cover some parts of state government, such as the judiciary, that are not in his domain.

“This order is a clear statement from Gov. Edwards that discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Louisianians is wrong and should not be tolerated in our state,” Matthew Patterson, managing director of Equality Louisiana, told The Advocate.

Louisiana is the second state whose governor has issued an order protecting transgender people from discrimination; Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a similar executive order in 2014.

Currently, there is no statewide law in Louisiana against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, though a small patchwork of cities and parishes has enacted local policies to protect LGBT people. Jefferson Parish and Lafayette Parish have passed nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT people in employment, as have New Orleans and Shreveport.