Republicans block anti-housing discrimination bill in committee

Louisiana is out-of-step with U.S. law regarding LGBTQ housing discrimination

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The Louisiana Capitol Building, April 8, 2021. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator).

A bill that would have made it illegal in Louisiana to refuse to rent or sell housing to someone because of their sexual orientation or because they’re transgender was killed in the Louisiana House Commerce Monday morning when all seven Republicans on the committee opposed it.  All four Democrats on the committee supported the bill sponsored by Rep. Aimee Freeman (D-New Orleans). 

Rep. Danny McCormick, an Oil City Republican, said landlords should be able to reject housing if they have a “different belief system” than potential renters.

“I look at it from a personal choice standpoint,” McCormick said during Monday morning’s hearing. “Personally I don’t wear a mask, and I get discriminated against… I’m not trying to run a bill to say you have to let me come in your store.”

“How does this affect (landlords) if they have a different belief system, and they have an apartment upstairs? Do they not have any choice in who they rent to?” he said.

Freeman said that federal law already prohibits landlords from discriminating against renters based on sexual orientation or gender identity, her bill would have just put state law in line with federal law. 

“Our housing laws are now out of line with federal protections that are essentially deceiving our residents about their fair housing rights and obligations,” she said.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced in February it will administer and enforce the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Rep. Edmond Jordan (D-Baton Rouge) said since federal law already prohibits gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination, then landlords who do discriminate against LGBTQ renters, believing it’s legal in Louisiana, would be subjected “to further lawsuits that frankly they can’t win.”

Whether one personally agrees with this bill or not doesn’t matter, Jordan said, because “if you don’t pass this (bill), in my opinion, you’re encouraging more litigation because it’s already (federal) law.”

Representatives McCormick, Paula Davis (R-Baton Rouge), Bryan Fontenot (R-Thibodaux), Markham Scott McKnight (R-Baton Rouge), Vincent St. Blanc (R-Franklin), Phillip Tarver (R-Lake Charles) and Polly Thomas (R-Metairie) opposed the bill.

Representatives Jordan, Royce Duplessis (D-New Orleans), Kyle Green (D-Marrero), and Candance Newell (D-New Orleans) supported it.

Later Monday, Freeman told the Illuminator she doesn’t know if she’ll reintroduce the bill yet. She said the lack of support the bill got “shows we have a lot of work to do in the state to explain to other people around the state why it’s really important to put gender and sexual identity into the protected class clause.”