On April 13, 2016, Gov. John Bel Edwards took historic action to protect the LGBT community from discrimination in state government. Gov. Edwards issued an executive order which prohibits state agencies, boards and contractors from harassment or discrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, disability or age. “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…We respect our fellow citizens for their beliefs, but we do not discriminate based on our disagreements,” Gov. Edwards said in a statement.
While there is no state law that protects our LGBT residents from discrimination, Gov. Edwards also rescinded former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s “Marriage and Conscience” executive order that sought to create protections for businesses and individuals who hold a “traditional” view of marriage from government discrimination. “The previous administration’s executive order I am rescinding was meant to serve a narrow political agenda,” Gov. Edwards stated. “It does nothing but divide our state and forced the business community from Louisiana’s smallest businesses to large corporations, like IBM, to strongly oppose it.” Herman, Herman & Katz represented the plaintiffs in the suit captioned ACLU Foundation of Louisiana, Forum for Equality Foundation, Clyde Watkins, Regina O. Matthews, Wallick Construction and Restoration, Inc., Marilyn McConnell, Laurie Reed, and Reverend William Barnwell v. Governor Bobby Jindal, which challenged the constitutionality of Gov. Jindal’s executive order. “We stand with Governor Edwards and whole-heartedly support his efforts to embrace all of the citizens of Louisiana,” said Jennifer Greene of Herman, Herman & Katz.
Gov. Edwards’ executive order still “respects the religious beliefs of our people,” by including an exemption for state contractors that are religious organizations, but it is a giant step towards proving to the rest of the nation that Louisiana is a prime location for businesses. Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said, “But even apart from that, the idea that the state of Louisiana has recognized that equal means equal and that employment within the state and government services must be equally available to everybody just makes Louisiana a better place.”