Love Will Win

US Supreme CourtAs I sit here at our nation’s capital, a bit chilled standing in line for the oral arguments on the marriage cases at the Supreme Court, I cannot help but feel inspired by all that we’ve accomplished together. After decades of hard work by a list of selfless people that is far too long to even attempt to recreate here, we finally have our day in front of the United States Supreme Court. Marriage equality is on trial, and thanks to your support over the past twenty-five years, we are within grasping reach of accomplishing full equality under the law.

Unfortunately, proposed legislation like HB 707 reminds us that even if and when the Court strikes down Louisiana’s hateful marriage ban, there is still plenty of work to do. But we won’t stop working, and we won’t stop fighting, as long as you continue to have our back. That’s why I’m writing to you, to thank all of you for supporting our mission and to ask that you continue to invest in equality here in Louisiana. Click HERE to go to our secure donation page.

Please take time today to think of all we have to be grateful for, I know I will.

Yours in Equality,

Chris Otten
Chair-Elect, Forum for Equality Louisiana

PS. If you would like to follow along, you can jump over to the SCOTUS blog for updates on this morning’s arguments.

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Jindal said what?!?

Yesterday, Governor Jindal opened his final State of the State Address acknowledging a host of challenges facing the state in his final year in office. As expected, he gave a forceful defense of Rep. Mike Johnson’s so-called “Marriage and Conscience Act,” or House Bill 707, which has been a focus of Forum for Equality, its partners in the Freedom Louisiana coalition, and indeed the entire country.

We have laid out our significant concerns with this law and how it will affect all Louisianans, which is why we were so surprised by what Gov. Jindal had to say after defending the law. In his State of the State address, Gov. Jindal explicitly mentioned LGBT persons, explaining that “All this bill does is provide necessary protections for individuals to prevent adverse treatment from the state based on religious beliefs regarding marriage. This legislation DOES NOT allow a restaurant or industry to refuse service to a gay or lesbian person.” The underlines in that quote, by the way, were supplied by the Governor in his copy of the speech!

The truth is, Louisiana law currently DOES allow restaurants, or employers, or housing, or places of public accommodation to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression – you can be denied service at a bakery in most of Louisiana for being gay. Won’t you join us in calling out Governor Jindal for his misstatement of the law and let your legislators know that you oppose HB 707?

We have long suspected that this misguided bill was nothing more than an attempt to enshrine discrimination against LGBT individuals and couples. In its overly broad attempt to do so, it would ensnare countless other couples, as we have explained in our thorough analysis of the bill.

Yours in Equality,

SarahJane Brady
Executive Director, Forum for Equality

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This is harmful to ALL Louisianans

Wow! The momentum is building in Louisiana, and we are excited to see the diverse and growing opposition to the so-called “Marriage and Conscience Act.”

Last night Stephen Perry of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau issued an amazing statement echoing the warning we have seen across the country. And just now, Mayor Mitch Landrieu expressed his opposition to HB707 saying that “New Orleans has always been an accepting, inviting city that thrives on its diversity. Discrimination in any form should not be tolerated, and New Orleans has passed its own laws to reflect that principle.”

We know that HB 707 is in direct response to the prospect of marriage equality for same-sex couples, yet this bill threatens the very fiber of our state by authorizing discrimination in all aspects of life based solely on an individual’s opinion of marriage. Working in unison with ACLU Louisiana, Human Rights Campaign and the growing number of partners opposed to HB 707, the Freedom Louisiana coalition is working hard to emphasize how this proposed legislation will harm ALL Louisianans.

More than cupcakesHB 707 gives anyone the right to discriminate even if that results in someone being denied medical care, important benefits or access to services, being turned away from a business, or other harmful consequences with no ability for the state to protect them. No one should be subject to discrimination just because of who they are or who they love. Join us in fighting this awful bill.
With Equality,
SarahJane Brady
Executive Director, Forum for Equality

PS. Your voice matters! Add it to the hundreds of Louisianans telling their legislators to oppose HB 707!

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A License to Discriminate in Louisiana

louisiana flag gay pelican divided injusticeOver the past few weeks there has been coverage of a national movement to expand “religious freedoms” in the states. Louisiana has now been propelled into this battle by Rep. Mike Johnson’s “Marriage and Conscience Act” (HB 707) that was filed last week.

Make no mistake: this bill is not about “conscience.” This newly proposed bill is such a broad piece of legislation that it will give both businesses and individuals a license to discriminate in our state. Effectively, it could authorize discrimination in all aspects of our lives based on any belief about the institution of marriage. No state has seen such a brazen attempt to insert religious beliefs and moral objections into their laws, and the text of the bill is so far-reaching that its application to same-sex, interfaith or interracial couples is likely just the beginning of the list of couples who could be affected by this legislation.

Tell your State Representative that the Marriage and Conscience Act is a license to discriminate in our state and we will not stand for it.

Forum for Equality knows that Louisiana is an incredible place to call home and a welcoming place to visit. We hope that you will stand with us as we fight against this attempt to hurt our state and our community.

For Equality,

SarahJane Brady

Executive Director, Forum for Equality

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LANA has been pre-filed

It’s hard to believe, but right now under Louisiana law, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are subject to unfair discrimination based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. But it is true, discrimination exists throughout Louisiana law.

Representative Austin Badon has introduced House Bill 612, the Louisiana Non-discrimination Act (LANA), to expand the scope of protections of over 60 current Louisiana non-discrimination statute provisions to better protect our most vulnerable citizens from unlawful discriminatory practices. More specifically, LANA adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” to the lists of personal characteristics protected from unlawful discriminatory practices in the fields of employment, housing, education, finance, public accommodations and criminal justice. Moreover, it adds “age”, “sex” and/or “disability” to over 40 Louisiana non-discrimination statute provisions currently excluding these terms from the lists of protected personal characteristics.

Every American should have the opportunity to work hard, pay their dues, contribute to society, and provide for themselves and their families. That means putting food on the table, paying our bills, and ensuring we can put a roof over our children’s heads. No hardworking American, including workers who are gay or transgender, should have to live in fear that they can be fired, evicted, or denied a seat at a restaurant for just being who you are or whom you love.

We are taking this to Baton Rouge and fighting for Louisiana to be on the right side of history. Stand with us and #BeFairLouisiana!

Send us a strong message that you support Equality. Become a sustaining, monthly donor today.

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Manufactured Outrage?

I was checking my email yesterday afternoon and saw one from the Louisiana Family Forum stating that there was “manufactured outrage” over the religious freedom bill that Gov. Mike Pence signed into Indiana law last week. As many of you have been, we are watching the situation closely and wanted to clarify a few things regarding this “manufactured outrage.”

Louisiana does have a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that passed in 2010, and while Forum for Equality opposed that legislation then, it was in a different context to what we are seeing unfold in Indiana and states across that country. Today, RFRA is being used as a tool to try to allow discrimination against gay and transgender people, among others.

We need to re-examine the Louisiana RFRA, but most importantly it is essential that we update the laws to include non-discrimination protections, including those for gay and transgender people. We need to ensure that no one is fired from their job, denied housing, denied benefits or turned away from a business just because of who they are or who they love.

Rep. Austin Badon will reintroduce the Louisiana Non-discrimination Act this legislative session that will update over sixty current non-discrimination statute provisions to better protect our most vulnerable citizens, including the LGBT community, from unlawful discriminatory practices in the fields of employment, housing, education, finance and public accommodations. And you can support Rep. Badon and our fight this session by attending a Thank You Reception being held in his honor this evening in New Orleans.

This is an essential step in protecting ALL Louisianans, including the LGBT community! We are working hard this legislative session to protect our community, both by working to update our laws and protecting us from harmful laws that create a license to discriminate. You can support the work of the Forum for Equality team by donating today!

With equality,
SarahJane E. Brady
Executive Director, Forum for Equality

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The StoryCorps Mobile Tour

storycorps_logo_10_yearsExciting news! The StoryCorps Mobile Tour will be in New Orleans from March 12 – April 8th.
StoryCorps relies on community partners to help engage the true diversity of a city as well as help them offer a safe space for people to share their conversations. Forum for Equality is excited to partner with StoryCorps during their upcoming visit to New Orleans. For more information on StoryCorp, visit http://storycorps.org/about. There are a limited number of appointments available and reservations are first come, first served. If you would like to schedule a time, please email SarahJane Brady at sarahjane@forumforequality.org to assist you in scheduling an appointment with StoryCorp.

StoryCorp Mobile Tour in New Orleans
Recording dates: March 12- April 8, 2015
Location: Doerr Furniture
914 Elysian Fields Ave., New Orleans, Louisiana 70117

There is no cost to participate. StoryCorps is a nonprofit organization, and they request a suggested donation of $25 or more at the time of your interview. They want to make this as accessible to everyone as possible, so if you are not able to make a donation please do not let that hinder your participation.

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