Today, Forum for Equality’s Executive Director testified before the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee in support of SB 155 (the Louisiana Employment Non-discrimination Act). Here are Sarah Jane Guidry’s remarks:
LENDA seeks to update current employment non-discrimination laws. It will include protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by adding the definitions of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” for the first time in Louisiana law.
All people should be treated fairly and equally. That is why it is so shocking to realize in this day and age it is still legal under Louisiana law that someone could fire a hardworking individual because they are gay or transgender.
As hard working individuals, the LGBT community wants to be judged based on performance and qualifications — nothing more, nothing less. We take pride in our work and providing for ourselves and our families by earning a living like every other citizen.
All hardworking people, including those in the LGBT community, should be treated fairly and equally by the laws of our state, and everyone should have the opportunity to earn a living and provide for
themselves and their families. This is what updating this law is all about, because nobody should have to live in fear of being fired because of who they are or whom they love.
Protecting people from discrimination, including gay and transgender people, is about treating others as we want to be treated. Even though we all have different beliefs, what’s most important is focusing on what we have in common: taking pride in our work, respecting coworkers and customers, and getting the job done.
Most employers want to do the right thing, but there are always a few people who will only do what’s right when the law requires it. For those times when good judgement breaks down, we need laws so all employees, including those who are gay or transgender, are hired, fired, or promoted based on their professionalism, qualifications and job performance — nothing more, nothing less.
It is also about striking a balance. Updating our state law would protect gay and transgender employees from discrimination while including reasonable exemptions for small business employers as well as protecting the constitutional rights of churches and religious organizations.
Gay and transgender people are our friends, neighbors, family and co-workers. They work hard, serve in the military, and pay their taxes. When they apply for a job, they should be treated like everyone else and not be discriminated against.
Louisiana’s state motto is “Union, Justice and Confidence” – this should mean a place where people work hard and have faith in their state. Updating our law would help ensure the confidence of gay and transgender citizens of a fair opportunity to earn a living, meet our obligations, provide for ourselves and our families, and to build a better life and a better Louisiana, together.