State employees in Louisiana are now protected from sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, thanks to an executive order signed by Governor John Bel Edwards last month. Executive order JBE 2016-11 provides employment protections for state employees and employees of state contractors on the basis of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, disability or age. The executive order, signed on April 13, also prohibits discrimination in services provided by state agencies and recognizes an exemption for churches and religious organizations. Similar executive orders were signed by former Governors Edwin Edwards and Kathleen Blanco. Currently, there is no state law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) Louisianans from employment discrimination. Former Governor Bobby Jindal issued an executive order extending provisions included in Mike Johnson's Marriage and Conscience Act rejected by the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure during last year’s regular legislative session. Governor Edwards voiced his opposition to that executive order and said the previous administration’s order was “meant to serve a narrow political agenda,” threatened business growth and was against everything Louisiana stood for, “unity, acceptance, and opportunity for all.” Louisiana passed the strongest religious liberty protections in the country in 2010, the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which Governor Edwards supported. This executive order (E.O. JBE 2016-11) does not conflict with that law. Additionally, Governor Edwards has reportedly said that he supports the Pastor Protection Act (HB 597), currently pending in the Louisiana legislature. On April 19, the House passed the bill in an 80-18 vote after more than an hour of debate over the merits and potential impact. HB 597 is now pending before the Senate. If successful, the measure would allow clergy members to refuse to conduct marriages that they oppose because of their religious beliefs.
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