We went to the Capital today with a number of partners and allies to advocate for the Louisiana Fair Employment Act. House Bill 85 would amend state protections and add safeguards from discrimination in public employment based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
Forum For Equality, Louisiana Trans Advocates and Louisiana Progress all had representatives speak eloquently on the need for non-discrimination protections in public employment. AFL-CIO, AARP, EQLA and Louisiana ACLU were also there in support of the measure.
Representative Austin Badon, the bill’s sponsor, spoke about how all hard-working employees should have the chance to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families. That no one should live in fear that they can be fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance nor should our state risk losing the best and brightest to other states that value diversity.
Following him was Forum For Equality Board member, Mary Griggs. She spoke about how tax dollars should not be used to finance discrimination. She said,
“At a time when Louisiana is facing budget shortfalls, we cannot afford bad business practices that cause inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. When government employers discriminate, they have a harder time recruiting the best workers and the workforce suffers from reduced workplace productivity and increased turn over. Discrimination simply does not make financial sense for governments or for taxpayers like me, who ultimately end up paying the costs associated with workplace discrimination in the public sector.”
Elizabeth Jenkins, president of Louisiana Trans Advocates, spoke about the issues facing transgender employees in particular in employment with a number of shocking statistics from the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey Summary which had 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming participants.
The survey found widespread employment discrimination and economic insecurity including:
- Double the rate of unemployment: Survey respondents experienced unemployment at twice the rate of the general population.
- Widespread mistreatment at work: Ninety percent (90%) of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job
- 47% said they had experienced an adverse job outcome, such as being ﬁred, not hired or denied a promotion because of being transgender or gender non-conforming.
- 26% reported that they had lost a job due to being transgender or gender non-conforming and 50% reported being harassed.
When encouraging their passage of the bill, Ms. Jenkins said:
“Although this would only cover state workers, which we know is not an ideal situation, its passage into law nonetheless would represent a significant step forward for equality in our state, and would set a clear example for private companies who want to do business here that Louisiana is a place where we treat our neighbors fairly.”
We will add the remarks from other speakers as we get copies from them. The video of the proceedings should be made available soon. Follow this link: LA House & Gov Affairs Committee.
Against the measure was the Louisiana Family Forum (whose representative began by reminding the committee that they must stand for traditional values) and the pastor of the Jefferson Baptist Church (who claimed that passage of this bill would lead to a bill outlawing Christianity). Both offered a number of biblically based argument against the bill that had nothing to do with the core values of America (and Louisiana) for fairness and equality.
Despite Representative Badon and Forum For Equality Deputy Political Director, Kenny Tucker, offering a rebuttal, the vote was 6 to 3 against. Below is how the members of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted:
No Burns (R)
No Danahay (D)
No Barras (R)
No Berthelot (R)
Yes Brossett (D)
Yes Gaines (D)
Yes Jackson (D)
No Miller (R)
No Pugh (R)
Absent Schroder (R)
The Forum For Equality is committed to achieving full equality for the LGBT community by ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and equally by the laws of our state. We will continue to fight for employment non-discrimination at the state, city and municipal level.
Thanks so much to Representative Badon, Bruce Parker, Ted Baldwin, Morris Welch, Bill Naquin, Albert McMeen, Elizabeth Jenkins, Tucker Barry, Marjorie Esman, John Denison and Julie Cherry for all your hard work and support.