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?
Mr. Louisiana Leather 2013
Member, Forum for Equality Louisiana