Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco issued an executive order on Monday banning various sorts of harassment and discrimination--including by race, sexual orientation, and political affiliation--at all state offices. While much of the language in the order is covered under federal law, Blanco spokeswoman Denise Bottcher said the governor felt it was important for her to reestablish state policy regarding equal treatment in the workplace. Bottcher said the order is similar to an antidiscrimination order issued in 1992 by then-governor Edwin Edwards, but the new order adds the ban on harassment. "It's restating her feeling's about the need to treat all people with fairness in the workplace, particularly in state government," Bottcher said.
The legislature has in recent years declined to approve several proposals aimed at ensuring equal legal protections for gays and lesbians. The order bans harassment and discrimination on the part of supervisors in their dealings with state workers. It also applies to state employees in their dealings with
residents seeking benefits or services from the state. State officials must not discriminate when awarding contracts to private companies, and even the companies that get contracts to do state work must comply in its dealings with its own employees and subcontracts, the order states.
"Because her order includes state service contracts, it reaches into the private sector, thereby protecting even more minority citizens from employment discrimination," said Christopher Daigle, a spokesman for the gay rights group Equality Louisiana. "Given the current political environment, we applaud her for taking such a bold stand. "We urge the state lawmakers to follow suit and pass employment nondiscrimination legislation that has languished in the Louisiana legislature for over a decade," Daigle said.