LGBTQ protections are already scarce in Louisiana; Legislature seeks to make things even worse | Tammy C. Barney

Clearer and more inclusive minds must prevail

MONTGOMERY, AL - MARCH 30: Opponents of several bills targeting transgender youth attend a rally at the Alabama State House to draw attention to anti-transgender legislation introduced in Alabama on March 30, 2021 in Montgomery, Alabama. There are so far 192 anti-LGBTQ bills under consideration in state legislatures across the United States. Of those, 93 directly target transgender people. (Photo by Julie Bennett/Getty Images)

Louisiana is a state of “no” when it comes to protecting the LGBTQ community.

  • No ban on housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
  • No ban on employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • No ban on discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • No law that addresses harassment and/or bullying of students based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The list goes on, but you get the point. When it comes to enacting pro-LGBTQ equality legislation, Louisiana is sorely lacking.

In addition to the Legislature failing to enact basic anti-discrimination laws to protect the LGBTQ community, conservative Republican lawmakers have filed four bills that would affect young people who are transgender. Two bills would restrict access to health care for transgender people under the age of 18. Two other bills would ban transgender girls and women from participating in women-only sports competitions from elementary school through college. The bills also would allow athletes, coaches and other employees to sue it they suffered “harm” as a result of a transgender girl or woman participating in a sports competition.

Louisiana is not alone in setting this troubling anti-transgender tone. Between 2019 and 2020, bills that target transgender people nearly tripled in number. So far this year, 82 anti-transgender bills have been introduced in state legislatures, breaking the record of 79 such bills filed in 2020, according to the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The Associated Press notes that 66 bills banning transgender girls and women from sports or access to affirming healthcare have been filed in more than 20 states.

“These bills are not addressing any real problem, and they’re not being requested by constituents,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “Rather, this effort is being driven by national far-right organizations attempting to score political points by sowing fear and hate. What they don’t understand is opposing equality is highly unpopular — even among Trump voters — and states that pass legislation that attacks our community will face severe economic, legal and reputational harm.”

Just last week, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Board of Governors vowed to move championship events out of states that discriminate against the LGBTQ community. That’s troubling to Louisiana tourism leaders, who fear the state also would lose revenue from large business conventions if the anti-transgender bills become law.

“We could lose everything,” said J.P. Morrell, a member of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, the board that oversees the Superdome and Smoothie King Center. “Other cities will gladly poach us.”

“That’s kind of extortion don’t you think?” said State Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, who is sponsoring the bill to prohibit transgender women and girls from participating in sports. “We should not let the NCAA or any other special interest group tell us what to do.”

She is absolutely right. Why do we have to wait until someone extorts us to do the right thing?

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Louisiana adopted anti-transgender laws and subsequently hurt its economy after it has benefitted from other states’ faux pas? Remember when North Carolina passed a law restricting the bathrooms transgender people could use in 2016? Gov. John Bel Edwards’ inclusive policies toward the transgender community helped New Orleans land the 2017 NBA All-Star Game when the association pulled it from Charlotte. Most recently, the upcoming Will Smith movie “Emancipation” pulled up stakes in Georgia and moved to Louisiana after Georgia adopted controversial new laws restricting voting. 

Thankfully, Gov. Edwards’ stance against the current bills could help to quash them. Two-thirds of each chamber would have to support the measures to override the governor’s potential veto.

“I am hopeful the state Legislature does not see fit to advance these bills,” Gov. Edwards said Monday.

I hope he is right. Clearer and more inclusive minds must prevail in this matter. Louisiana can ill afford to lose any ground in the fight against discrimination or in rebuilding its economy following the long COVID-19 shut down. The state definitely needs to do a better job of achieving basic  equality for our LGBTQ community.

For now, the best thing that our legislators can do for the sake our state is to let these anti-transgender bills die without any consideration. That resounding “no”  would be one to celebrate.