The Baton Rouge government in Louisiana quietly added protection for gay and lesbian employees to its nondiscrimination policy in April, months before Wal-Mart made national news for doing the same thing. An update of the city-parish's equal employment opportunity policy dated April 29 forbids discrimination or harassment because of sexual orientation as well as race, age, religion, gender, and other protected characteristics. It is the first written rule protecting gay city-parish government workers and applicants. There is no Louisiana law or federal law against discrimination because of sexual orientation. Most state employees are not similarly protected, and only one other city in the state has such a policy: New Orleans, which adopted its rule in 1991.
Fourteen states and several hundred municipal governments nationally have adopted such policies, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. "Strategically, we find it especially important that this is happening in the capital city," said Christopher Daigle, chairman of the Louisiana Lesbian and Gay Political Action Caucus. "The capital city has so much of an influence."
The new policy is the result of a request by the Capital City Alliance, a gay rights support group, meeting with Mayor Bobby Simpson last fall. Simpson, a conservative Republican, said the decision was easy to make, calling the policy "just something you should have."