Committee Hearing on House Bill 85

capital bldg brWe 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.

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About Forum For Equality

The Forum For Equality is a statewide human rights organization dedicated to the establishment of a society free from discrimination and to the support of good government. We believe that the fastest and most efficient way to achieve these goals is to educate our communities and to constructively participate in the political process.
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7 Responses to Committee Hearing on House Bill 85

  1. marygriggs says:

    Reblogged this on Mary Griggs and commented:
    Here are my remarks in full:

    My name is Mary Griggs. I am a Human Resources professional with over 25 years of experience in retail, corporate and non-profit personnel management. I own my own organizational development consulting firm which has been in business since 2001.

    I also serve on the Board of the Forum For Equality, a statewide LGBT rights organization. We work to achieve full equality for the LGBT community through education, outreach, and constructive participation in the political process.

    I’m asking for your support of House Bill 85. The Louisiana Fair Employment Act would amend state protections and add safeguards from discrimination in public employment based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

    We believe that qualified, hard-working employees should be recruited and retained based on their skills, qualifications, and capacity to contribute. Employment evaluations should not be based on sexual orientation or gender identity but on work performance.

    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; they suffer from reduced workplace productivity and increased turn over; and they often expose themselves to costly litigation. 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.

    Tax dollars should never be used to finance discrimination. This is true for discrimination based on other characteristics that are completely irrelevant to job performance, including race, ethnicity, sex, national origin, religion, disability, and, yes, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

    Some of Louisiana’s largest employers, including Entergy, Shaw Group, and Superior Energy Services, ensure that their workers have protections against unfair treatment by having LGBT inclusive employment non-discrimination policies. Even with the recent reductions in force, the State of Louisiana is the largest single employer in the state. Given the size of the labor force working for the state government (estimated between 54,000 and 80,000), as state lawmakers, you have a responsibility to institute commonsense policies like House Bill 85.

    We believe that all state employees should be treated fairly and equally by the laws of our state. There is precedent in Louisiana for these protections. In 1992, Gov. Edwin Edwards issued an executive order prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and in 2004 Gov. Kathleen Blanco issued a similar executive order. At neither time did our state become a “target-rich environment for lawsuits” as claimed by the Louisiana Family Forum.

    HB 85 is necessary because Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people face serious discrimination in employment, including being fired from their job, being denied promotions and experiencing harassment. In our Louisiana Public Employee Survey, we found that 65% of state employees had seen or heard discriminatory or biased behavior toward an LGBT employee and 59% had heard a supervisor make a negative comment or express bias against LGBT people.

    All hard-working people in our state should have the chance to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families. Nobody should have to live in fear that they can be legally fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance.

    Thank you.

  2. Remarks Delivered 5.1.13 before Louisiana House of Representatives Committee on House and Governmental Affairs.

    My name is Bill Naquin and I live in Jefferson Parish. I serve on the committee of the Louisiana Forum for Equality that drafted HB 85. As an openly gay man, I have worked on LGBT equality issues in a number of states going back twenty three years.

    I want to tell you that I am beyond grateful that The Creator made me a Gay Man; For I am fully convinced that had he not done so, I might never have come to fully comprehend- through the discrimination, the exclusion, the hatred and the violence I have experienced, and the fear with which I lived for many years- the realities of racism, sexism, and homophobia that exist in our society. It was through this painful experience that I came to genuinely appreciate that discrimination does exist, and sadly where it is not checked by law, it flourishes.

    I worked in another state as a public school teacher for a number of years- and the law on the books there held that I as a homosexual could be discharged as culpable of moral turpitude. That experience of living under the Sword of Damocles, with one’s livelihood constantly in jeopardy, is essentially what we are confronting here in Louisiana with House Bill 85.

    I find that the soul of this bill is found in one sentence on page two: “It shall be unlawful discrimination in employment for any state employer to subject employees to different standards of treatment or otherwise discriminate in employment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression”.

    Expanding existing protections to a long-despised and much discriminated-against class is not radical social policy- it is the decent and moral thing to do. Lafayette, Shreveport, Bossier City, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lake Charles, and Monroe offer some form of employment protection for LGBT city or parish employees. The State of Louisiana needs to follow their lead.

    With our society growing more inclusive every day- with similar bills as this advancing in legislatures in Virginia, Georgia, Texas- and across the south- I ask you to think about the message that you will send with your vote on this measure to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender sons and daughters of Louisiana- will you with your vote encourage them with the hope that Louisiana embraces tolerance, decency, and justice- or rather will you tell them to seek acceptance, freedom, and peace of mind in a more just and progressive place than Louisiana? Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you- what will your vote say to them?

    Bill Naquin
    Mr. Louisiana Leather 2013
    Member, Forum for Equality Louisiana

  3. Public ENDA Hearing – House Bill 85 May 1, 2013
    House and Governmental Affairs Committee: Committee Room 2

    Mr. Chairman, members of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee: my name is Albert McMeen.

    I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Forum for Equality.

    I am testifying in support of House Bill 85 (the Louisiana Fair Employment Act).

    Although I realized that I was gay from an early age, the 1950s and 1960s were a time when most gay people stayed in the closet. I chose to marry a woman and have children as a way to hide my identity from myself and others. All though I told my wife that I had “homosexual tendencies” before we were married, she trusted that I would not act on those impulses.

    I went to college in New England and earned my MBA at Columbia University in 1966. I served in the Army Reserve earning an Honorable Discharge in 1972. I was employed as a Vice President of the Irving Trust Co., a large commercial bank in New York.

    In 1977, we divorced as I was no longer able, at 35 to hide my real nature from myself. We lived next door to each other in New York and shared custody of our two children. In 1979, a management change resulted in a new manager. Upon finding out from a person in my department that I was gay, he fired me. Another gay man he had fired reported that the manager had a reputation of “witch-hunting” gay men at the bank and not just firing them, but calling around the financial industry to “warn” others of the names of homosexuals he had fired.

    I was unable to obtain employment in the finance industry after that. This dramatically affected the financial well-being of my ex-wife and my children. Eventually, I went to work as an Assistant Professor of Business at New York University and later Long Island University at half my former salary. My son, Christopher has recently written on the Internet about this hardship. During the next several years, I also wrote 5 books on finance, and after my sons finished college, I became self employed, running a bed and breakfast still today.

    I have come before you to ask you to consider how being fired not for incompetence or unsuitability for the work, but because of who you are and who you love places great stress on families, ruins careers for which persons have prepared their whole lives. Do you want your daughters marrying gay men who feel that they must stay in the closet in order to get and stay in a good job? Do believe that good employees of the State who happen to identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender present such a hazard that they should be fired without just cause?

    Please vote YES for House Bill 85.

  4. Testimony on HB85 – House & Governmental Affairs Committee – 5/1/13

    My name is Morris Welch. I speak today from two capacities.

    First is that I was a state employee for 29 years throughout which I was afraid to reveal aspects of my personal life. I was constrained from developing any warm relations with co-workers for fear that simple questions about home, family, and activities would lead to similar questions about myself. I didn’t put any pictures on my desk. I was guarded in what I said about my private life. I never was able to mention anything about my partner, even when he became ill and eventually passed away. Hiding in that fashion is hard, and you don’t have much capability to determine what attitudes your supervisors have regarding sexual orientation. My situation was even more worrisome because I was unclassified and didn’t even have the limited protections afforded by Civil Service.

    Second, I also represent the Louisiana congregations of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches including the one in Baton Rouge where I am a Board member, Treasurer, choir member, and worship leader. In our church, there is a wonderful lady who was fired from two different public colleges in Louisiana because she is a lesbian. She can’t be here herself for fear that someone at her subsequent college might see or hear about her testimony. Past opposition to proposals that would offer protection against discrimination have been primarily based on religious beliefs. I realize that argument has recently become more muted, but only because it is often concealed behind dubious prophesies of other dire problems. I ask you to note that our country’s founding fathers saw the folly in discriminating based on religious faith, in favoring one set of religious beliefs over another, and in allowing religion to play too large a role in the halls of government.

    I also want to point out that I am an active participant in civic life. I have been a member and officer of my Kiwanis club for 36 years, am a past President of the Inter-Civic Council of Baton Rouge that, along with The Advocate newspaper, presents Baton Rouge’s annual Golden Deeds Award, and have been actively involved in a number of other community organizations. Similarly, most gay or transgender people are fully contributing citizens and live a typical life of home, work, social activities, and community involvement.

    In a national November 2011 poll, 87% of voters erroneously thought there is a federal law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from workplace discrimination. But the poll also found that 77% of voters do support such protections, including 70% of Republicans and 69% of senior citizens.

    If 77% of voters support protections and 87% think they already exist, it’s strange that employment protections face such challenges in getting passed. But that picture is changing.

    The current Mayor of Baton Rouge and his predecessor issued Executive Orders banning discrimination in city/parish employment. Similar Executive Orders have been issued over the past couple of years in Shreveport, Bossier City, Monroe, Lafayette, and Lake Charles. Former Governors Edwin Edwards and Kathleen Blanco also issued orders for state employees. Orleans Parish has a full and much wider ordinance that covers all employment, both public and private, in addition to other areas such as housing and credit. My past employer, LSU, adopted a non-discrimination policy including sexual orientation several years ago, and recently added gender identity and expression to that policy.

    21 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in both public and private employment and 16 states and the District also protect gender identity. Among Fortune 500 companies, 88% have non-discrimination policies covering sexual orientation, and 57% cover gender identity. There appear to have been few problems in any of those venues, public or private, either inside or outside of Louisiana.

    It is important to realize that all of those policies include a list of characteristics. To have any teeth at all, it is vital that this bill, or any other law to combat discrimination, must include that list because those traits have been the basis of most past cases of discrimination.

    This bill simply expands protections for state employees. It does not provide any special rights and does not promote homosexuality or any other traits. It does not prevent firing for poor performance or other job-related issues. It simply recognizes that sexuality has no bearing on job performance, that government should be impartial, and that all people employed by the state of Louisiana should be treated fairly without fear of discrimination based on religious or other arbitrary biases.

    I urge you to support this bill both with your vote in this committee and your influence in the full House and Senate.

  5. Pingback: Louisiana Fair Employment Act  | Forum For Equality

  6. Major thankies for the blog article.Thanks Again. Really Cool.

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