On April 13, Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed an executive order providing employment protections for state employees and employees of state contractors on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, disability, or age. His executive order, JBE 2016-11, also prohibits discrimination in services provided by state agencies; further, it recognizes an exemption for churches and religious organizations. Similar executive orders were signed by former Governors Edwin Edwards and Kathleen Blanco, the governor’s office noted in a press release. There is currently no state law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) Louisianans from employment discrimination. Said Governor Edwards, “We respect our fellow citizens for their beliefs, but we do not discriminate based on our disagreements.” He continued: “While this executive order respects the religious beliefs of our people, it also signals to the rest of the country that discrimination is not a Louisiana value, but rather, that Louisiana is a state that is respectful and inclusive of everyone around us.” Rescinding previous E.O. Edwards “stood with the business community and LGBT citizens,” the release notes, in opposition to former Governor Bobby Jindal’s executive order (BJ 16-8) extending provisions included in the “Marriage and Conscience Act” rejected by the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure during last year’s regular legislative session. “The previous administration’s executive [order] I am rescinding was meant to serve a narrow political agenda, “said Gov. Edwards. “It does nothing but divide our state and forced the business community, from Louisiana’s smallest businesses to large corporations, like IBM, to strongly oppose it. This executive order threatens Louisiana’s business growth, and it goes against everything we stand for—unity, acceptance, and opportunity for all.” Pastor Protection Act? Louisiana’s 2010 Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which Edwards supported, does not conflict with the new executive order, the governor’s office says. Also, Edwards reportedly has said that he supports legislation, the Pastor Protection Act (HB 597) that is currently pending House floor action, which would protect a religious organization, an organization supervised or controlled by a religious organization, an individual employee of a religious organization, or a clergy or minister from being required to solemnize or “provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage if doing so would cause the organization or individual to violate a sincerely held religious belief.”
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