Louisiana antidiscrimination order doesn't extend beyond executive branch

BY admin

January 13 2005 12:00 AM ET

Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco's top lawyer said Wednesday that many of the people questioning the governor's recent antidiscrimination order simply don't understand it. "A lot of it has to do with a fundamental lack of understanding of what an executive order is," said Terry Ryder, Blanco's executive counsel.

The order has stirred up complaints from conservatives since it was issued last month. Others, including gay rights groups, have applauded it. U.S. representative Bobby Jindal asked for clarification about the order, and in the most recent development, state senator James David Cain asked Atty. Gen. Charles Foti whether parts of the order are unconstitutional.

The December 6 executive order prohibits state agencies and contractors from various sorts of harassment and discrimination by race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, political affiliation, or disabilities. Blanco's office said much of the language already is covered under federal law, and the governor said she was stating that everyone should be treated fairly in the workplace.

Cain questioned whether parishes and municipalities must follow Blanco's order and whether that would be taking away the legislature's power to make laws. In a letter to Foti, he also asked whether the order is unconstitutional by applying to legislators and judges. Cain also asked Foti to clarify the definitions of sexual orientation and political affiliation and whether the term "sexual orientation" is
unconstitutionally vague.

Ryder said the governor, as head of the executive branch, issued an order that applies only to staff and agencies she oversees and those that contract with those executive branch departments. He said the governor's order doesn't apply to local governments, the legislature, or the judicial branch and used
standard language for executive orders. The attorney general's office received Cain's request for an opinion on the matter, but a spokeswoman for the office said she didn't know when an opinion
would be issued.

Jindal also said he wanted clarification from Foti to make sure religious groups that contract with the state wouldn't be sued if they refused to follow the order. The governor's office said state agencies were told the antidiscrimination language shouldn't be used in contracts involving faith-based groups.

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