Sarah Jane Guidry, Forum for Equality’s Executive Director, testified before the House Labor and Industrial Relations committee in support of HB 3012 – the Louisiana Employment Non-discrimination Act. Here are her remarks:
Thank you Representatives for the opportunity to address you this morning. I’m SarahJane Guidry, Executive Director of Forum for Equality. Forum for Equality is Louisiana’s LGBT human rights organization dedicated to the establishment of a society free from discrimination and to the support of good government.
We put before you this morning the Louisiana Employment Non-Discrimination Act – HB 302 authored by Rep. Joe Bouie. This important piece of legislation will include employment protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
This is not an issue new to our legislature. In fact, this bill was first introduced in 1993, and authored by Sen. Troy Carter and Rep. Marc Morial. Many things have changed over the past 26 years. Most importantly, hearts and minds.
Last year, Project Right Side conducted a survey across Louisiana. The findings are interesting:
- 6 out of 10 Louisiana voters (60%) think it’s illegal under state law to fire, refuse to hire, deny housing or public accommodations access to someone because they are gay or transgender. Majorities across party lines think it’s currently illegal under state law (Republicans 66%, Democrats 58%, Independents 55%).
- Similarly, sixty-six percent (66%) favor protections for gay and transgender Louisianans in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations. Voters across all major geographic areas support new protections: Alexanderia (60%), Baton Rouge (70%), Lafayette (55%), Lake Charles (61%), Monroe (61%), New Orleans (72%) and Shreveport (63%).
In the past 26 years, since we first introduced this legislation, New Orleans, Shreveport, and Alexandria have expanded protections for the LGBT community. Lafayette and Jefferson parishes with Baton Rouge have expanded their protections to include LGBT city-parish employees. And, Governor Edwards signed an executive order to expand protections to LGBT state workers and contractors.
We have seen the vast majority (91 percent) of Fortune 500 companies prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and over three- fourths (83 percent) prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, compared to just three in 2000.
After all this time and despite all this progress, we still lack protections for all LGBT Louisianans. Louisianans are proud people. We stay put. We love our state and towns that we call home. There is no reason that a gay person from Bunkie or transgender person from Farmerville should be denied protections from discrimination. We are all created equal, and the time has come for Louisiana law to be expanded and updated to reflect all its citizens.
All people should be treated fairly and equally. That is why it is so shocking that it is still legal under state law to fire, demote, or even determine compensation of hardworking individuals simply because they are gay or transgender.
The LGBT community wants to be judged based on performance and qualifications — nothing more, nothing less.
Louisiana’s state motto is “Union, Justice and Confidence” – this should mean a place where people know that the State values them and their hard work, period. Updating our non-discrimination laws to include the LGBT community would help ensure a fair opportunity to earn a living, meet our obligations, provide for ourselves and our families.
We all sit here today to help Louisiana be the best version of itself. And that means a home where people know that the State values and protects them. Help me build a better life and a better Louisiana, together, by voting in favor of HB 302.
Despite a room full of support, the House Labor and Industrial Relations committee voted 9-5 to involuntary defer HB 302 – Louisiana Employment Non-Discrimination Act by Rep. Dr. Joe Bouie. Unfortunately, this means that there will be no further action take on HB 302 this session.