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Louisiana Gov.'s LGBT Nondiscrimination Order Struck Down in Court

Jeff Landry and John Bel Edwards
From left: Jeff Landry and John Bel Edwards

The state's attorney general had objected to the order, which protected state employees and contractors from anti-LGBT discrimination.

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A Louisiana judge has thrown out Gov. John Bel Edwards's executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination in state government employment and services.

State District Judge Todd Hernandez ruled Wednesday that Edwards's order, issued in April, violates the state constitution because it creates law, a function that is reserved for legislators, the Associated Press reports. Edwards said he intends to appeal the ruling.

Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, had filed a lawsuit challenging the order issued by the Democratic governor. It protected state employees, and those who work for businesses and nonprofits that hold state contracts, against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Faith-based institutions that have contracts are exempted.

Previous Democratic governors, such as Edwin Edwards and Kathleen Blanco, had issued orders banning sexual orientation discrimination but not covering gender identity. Their orders were not challenged in court. John Bel Edwards's immediate predecessor, Republican Bobby Jindal, did not issue such an order.

The attorney general has refused to enforce the order, therefore holding up much state business. "Landry hasn't been willing to sign up to 100 legal contracts between private law firms and state government agencies because they contain LGBT protections," reports The Times-Picayune, a New Orleans newspaper. "He also wouldn't put the LGBT protections in his own contracts at the Department of Justice, so the state procurement office under Edwards' control was refusing to approve those agreements as well." This included a contract with a law firm that is supposed to be defending Louisiana's recently enacted restrictions on abortion.

The legislature had rejected a contract for state employee health insurance because it contained the LGBT protections, The Times-Picayune reports. Now lawmakers will likely approve it. But Republican statewide elected officials, other than Landry, hadn't objected to the nondiscrimination order, nor had most law firms or other contractors, Edwards administration officials told the paper.

A notable exception among the lawyers, though, might be Kyle Duncan, the Washington, D.C., attorney who is set to defend the abortion law, which requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, The Times-Picayune notes. Duncan is also representing Virginia's Gloucester County School District in a suit filed against it by transgender student Gavin Grimm over restroom access. That case is going to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Landry had offered Judge Hernandez a compromise on the LGBT order, saying he'd be willing to let the sexual orientation provision stand if the judge would throw out the protections for gender identity. However, Hernandez decided to strike down the entire order.

Landry praised the decision in a written statement, The Times-Picayune reports. "We do not live under a King in Louisiana; we have a Governor, an independent Attorney General, an elected Legislature, and a Court system who are all involved in governance along with others," he said. "Governor Edwards must live within the Constitution."

Edwards issued a statement as well, saying, "We are disappointed in the court's ruling today. With great respect for the role of the Louisiana Legislature, we continue to believe that discrimination is not a Louisiana value and that we are best served as a state when employment decisions are based solely on an individual's qualifications and job performance."

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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