BATON ROUGE — A New Orleans senator’s bid to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was killed Tuesday by the Louisiana Senate, with no debate from senators against the bill.
The chamber voted 25-8 against advancing the measure to the House for debate. Only one Republican senator voted in support of the bill, though Democrats voted on both sides of the measure.
Democratic Sen. Troy Carter’s proposal would have applied to public and private business, but exempt churches and religious organizations. Gov. John Bel Edwards has enacted similar anti-discrimination provision for state agencies and contractors.
Carter told his colleagues there was no “hidden message” in the bill and asked them to focus on its sole purpose of extending fair employment opportunities to all people, especially students. The bill has nothing to do with hot button debates on transgender bathrooms, as some against the proposal have suggested, Carter said.
“What message do we want to send (students) as they prepare to be the best they can be?” he asked.
The bill faced strong opposition from business groups, like the National Federation of Independent Business, and conservative Christian organizations. Opponents of the legislation suggested it could lead to onerous litigation from employees.
The proposal was contentious from its start and only narrowly advanced from its Senate committee hearing by one vote.
Carter said he brought a similar bill about 24 years ago, which was rejected by the Louisiana House. That bill did not include gender identity.
He told his colleagues that he hoped lawmakers were wiser and more tolerant and understanding in 2016.
“Discrimination against anyone is a threat to everyone,” he said.
The bill was quietly halted, despite Carter’s attempt to assure his colleagues that he was not asking them “to condone or condemn” a person’s sexuality with their votes.
Members of Equality Louisiana, an LGBT rights organization, pledged to continue its push for non-discrimination legislation in an email sent after the chamber’s vote.
Matthew Patterson, the group’s managing director, noted that Tuesday marked “the first time in at least two decades that a transgender-inclusive employment nondiscrimination bill has advanced to a floor vote in the Louisiana Legislature.”