Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued on Wednesday an executive order to protect the rights of gay and transgender people, banning discrimination in state government based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Under the executive order, state employees and employees of state contractors are also protected against discrimination based on race, disability, religion or age.
The provision affecting contractors will start taking effect on July 1 and the rest of the order starts immediately.
The Democrat’s executive order offers an exemption for churches and religious organizations, according to a report by Reuters, and it also prohibits state agencies from discrimination related to political affiliation and national origin.
The governor said in a statement that he signed the order because there is no state law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people from employment discrimination. He was very careful to add language protecting against harassment based on “gender identity”.
Matthew Patterson, managing director of LGBT rights organization Equality Louisiana, commented that the executive order marks the first time ever that transgender people have had some legal protections in the state.
“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. “We respect our fellow citizens for their beliefs, but we do not discriminate based on our disagreements.”
Edwards’ order invalidates one signed by Republican Bobby Jindal, his immediate predecessor, which was part of the “religious freedom” movement in certain Southern states that limits marriage rights for gay people and restraints transgender people from using public restrooms that do not match the sex appearing on their birth certificates. Advocates for this movement claim they want to protect religious beliefs.
The Democrat said his order seeks to be “respective and inclusive” of every Louisiana citizen, noting that it respects religious beliefs while it seeks to build an anti-discrimination image of the state.
Louisiana governor suggested his order would contribute to business growth
Edwards noted in his statement that Jindal’s order had done nothing but to encourage division and threaten business growth across the state. Michael Hecht, president and Greater New Orleans Inc. CEO, also embraces diversity and agreed that Edward’s executive order would promote Louisiana as a welcoming state for talent and business, Los Angeles Times reported.