From the late Middle Ages comes a great word – dastard. Probably a combination of dazed, dotard and bastard; it means a dishonorable or despicable man.
There is a reason Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s picture appears next to the definition.
First, let me give a little background.
I worked for the election of John Bel Edwards to be governor of Louisiana. There were many reasons for my support of his candidacy but most notably, it was his commitment to issuing an executive order to protect LGBTQ state employees from discrimination and harassment that compelled me to canvass and make calls.
After he won the election, I was part of the coalition that came together to craft the language of the order. The Forum for Equality, along with Equality Louisiana and the Louisiana Trans Advocates helped negotiate an inclusive executive order.
We succeeded and on April 13, Governor John Bel Edwards signed the order ( JBE 2016-11) with most of the advocates there in his office.
I’m standing next to Governor Edwards in the wrinkled blue shirt
While Louisiana has twice before had executive orders (the first signed by Gov Edwards in February 17, 1992 – EWE 92-7 and, the second by Gov Blanco on December 4 2004 – KBB 04-54) which added sexual orientation protection, this is the first one to include gender identity. It was a first for Louisiana and first in the South!
Attorney General Jeff Landry immediately began to undermine the order. In May, he issued an opinion that the order could not be enforced legally. All of the organizations involved in getting the original executive order plus several more responded quickly with a statement: “Landry’s Opinion is based on obsolete caselaw and outdated scientific information, and demonstrates that he is out of touch with current interpretations and understanding. Landry’s political posturing cannot be allowed to harm victims of discrimination merely to advance his own mean-spirited political agenda.”
Also in May, he issued an opinion against the Department of Education and Department of Justice’s Title IX Guidance on Transgender Students, declaring the “Obama transgender mandate is unlawful federal overreach.”
In mid-August (not so coincidently right in the middle of a massive natural disaster and truly terrible flooding, when everyone else in the state was focused on recovery), he began refusing to approve contracts that contain the language of the executive order. There are at least 37 state government contracts for legal work which have been blocked.
It should be noted that the Louisiana Bar Association, an organization for attorneys, encourages the adoption of non-discrimination policies in law firms protecting both sexual orientation and gender identity. On the issue of the AG’s role, it has stated that the attorney general is only supposed to review state legal contracts with private attorneys to make sure the lawyers are qualified to do the work. Further, they say the law doesn’t give his office oversight over language such as the LGBT nondiscrimination clause.
This week, AG Landry filed a lawsuit against the executive order. He claims “Executive Overreach” and is asking a judge to prohibit enforcement of the order. One of his claims is that “enforcement of the order, affording protection from ‘discrimination’ based upon ‘gender identity,’ undermines this State’s anti-discrimination laws and hundreds of other laws in that it creates a protected class which is premised solely upon subjective and arbitrary factors unlike other recognized and legislatively established protected classes.”
Seriously? An order protecting people from discrimination undermines other people from protection of anti-discrimination laws? I call bullshit.
Instead of doing the job he was elected to do, Landry is dastardly carrying the banner for the extremists in their opposition to equal rights for LGBTQ people.
The office of the Attorney General is supposed to protect the people and resources of the state of Louisiana. Instead, it has become a partisan hack’s playground where he picks and chooses who he will protect.
Landry does not believe that gender identity should be a legally protected class. This despite the fact that the EEOC has held that discrimination against an individual because that person is transgender (also known as gender identity discrimination) is discrimination because of sex and therefore is covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
He fears what he doesn’t understand and is attempting legal maneuvers to classify transgender people as second class citizens. He can’t be allowed to negate the right to equal treatment under the law for all Louisianians, including transgender people.
Transgender Americans deserve equal dignity and respect at work, in receiving an education, or when seeking respectful and appropriate healthcare. Transgender people make valuable contributions to society and, like everyone else, they should be treated fairly in all areas of life.
This lawsuit illustrates how vital it is to ensure that transgender protections are permanently codified into state law. Protection from discrimination is too foundational and important a value to leave to the discretion of the Attorney General.
Governor Edwards released a statement and said, “Discrimination, of any kind, is not a Louisiana value, and I will do everything in my power, including enforcing this order, to foster a productive and welcoming work environment in Louisiana’s state government.”
Thank you, Governor!
You can join the fight to protect LGBTQ people in Louisiana from discrimination by becoming a member of the Forum for Equality at this link here. I’m proud to be a member as they continue the fight for fairness, equality and equal treatment under the law. I encourage you to get involved, too.