The Louisiana state House of Representatives committee failed to approve a bill aimed at improving workplace protection for LGBTQ+ employees on Wednesday in a vote 7-5.
The bill would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's current employment discrimination law, which bans discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, or cultural hairstyle.
Opponents said the addition could result in lawsuits against companies.
Rep. Delisha Boyd, a Democrat from New Orleans, explained that the bill, which she proposed, would help increase workers in the state.
“Skilled and talented people are in short supply in our state,” Boyd said, according to public radio station WRKF. “We need to expand our employment pool regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation.”
Several members of the LGBTQ+ community spoke to the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee about their experiences being discriminated against while looking for employment.
Jasmine Elizabeth Kemp, 32, of Bogalusa, La., who is transgender, told lawmakers that even though she's applied for jobs in a variety of sectors, she still hasn't been hired. If businesses do get back to her about her application, they tell her “they're afraid of how their customers will react to a transgender person working in their establishment.”
Kemp said, “No one has ever given me an interview, no one has ever vetted me, no one has ever given me a job.”
The executive director of Louisiana Trans Advocates, Peyton Rose Michelle, a trans woman, said that even after graduating high school with a 3.8 GPA, it still took applying to hundreds of jobs and several years to find work, WRKF reports.
“It’s really important that we codify protections into our state language… Our community, we desperately need it,” she said.
While a local pastor told the committee that having the addition would make it harder for businesses, business owners disagreed.
“I’ve never had a customer come into my shop and ask what anyone’s sexual orientation is,” KOK Wings CEO Corey McCoy said, adding he's hired trans and gay employees.
The same legislature is currently advancing bills to limit access to books about LGBTQ+ topics to students and to restrict conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools — the state's version of "don't say gay."