In a sign that other states are looking at North Carolina and thinking, “Oh hell no we don’t want any of that,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed an executive order today barring discrimination in state services based on sexual orientation. However, the order leaves an exemption for “churches and religious organizations.”
The nondiscrimination order, which you can read here, bans discrimination in state employment and in services provided by state agencies on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, disability, or age.”
The religious exemption was put in place for state agencies that are also faith-based; it was reportedly put in place after discussions between the governor’s office and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops. Nola.com reported that other religious groups were also very insistent that any anti-discrimination language leave them an out, in case they wanted to discriminate:
The Louisiana Family Forum, the state’s most powerful conservative Christian organization, is opposed to Edwards issuing any such executive order but was happy to hear the governor was considering carving out a religious exception. “If we are going to introduce sexual politics into the equation, I think it would be prudent to carve out those religious exemptions,” said Gene Mills, president of the organization.
In a press release, Bel Edwards carefully, carefully stressed that Louisiana is a welcoming place:
“We are fortunate enough to live in a state that is rich with diversity, and we are built on a foundation of unity and fairness for all of our citizens,” said Gov. Edwards. “We respect our fellow citizens for their beliefs, but we do not discriminate based on our disagreements. I believe in giving every Louisianan the opportunity to be successful and to thrive in our state. Our goal is to promote the opportunities we have right here in Louisiana. While this executive order respects the religious beliefs of our people, it also signals to the rest of the country that discrimination is not a Louisiana value, but rather, that Louisiana is a state that is respective and inclusive of everyone around us.”
Louisiana’s state officials have doubtless been watching North Carolina with great interest, where a transphobic bill prompted heavy backlash, loss of business and Bruce Springsteen, and, eventually, a very sad attempt by the governor Tuesday to “clarify” its intent.
Governor John Bel Edwards; photo via AP.