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Louisiana Governor's Pro-LGBT Executive Order Overturned

by John Riley
Saturday Dec 17, 2016

A Baton Rouge judge has thrown out Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards' executive order protecting LGBT state employees, claiming that the governor was attempting to circumvent the Republican-controlled legislature.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, had sued Edwards, a Democrat, over the executive order, saying he had overstepped his authority and that his actions were in direct opposition to the will of those serving in the legislature. Louisiana lawmakers have previously voted down bills that provide workplace protections for LGBT people, and rejected a state employee health insurance contract because it contained those protections for LGBT employees, reports the Times-Picayune.

Initially, Landry had asked the court to throw out all the LGBT protections, though he later amended his request, asking the court to throw out only the protections for transgender workers. In doing so, Landry invoked the "bathroom panic" arguments that have come to a feature of most fights over transgender rights - suggesting that allowing transgender state workers to use restrooms matching their gender identity was a public safety risk.

The last two Democratic governors of the Pelican State, Edwin Edwards and Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, issued executive orders protecting gay, lesbian and bisexual state workers when they were in office. Those orders were never challenged. But neither had included employment protections for transgender people, making Edwards' order both unique in its scope and a target for social conservatives like Landry.

In his ruling, Judge Todd Hernandez agreed with Landry's original assessment, throwing out not only the transgender protections but those for LGB people as well. In essence, Hernandez argued in his ruling, Edwards had attempted to pass a new law without the approval of the legislature, thereby violating separation of powers and usurping "the constitutional authority vested only in the legislative branch of government."

"We do not live under a King in Louisiana," Landry said in a statement gloating about his win. "We have a Governor, an independent Attorney General, an elected Legislature, and a Court system who are all involved in governance along with others. Governor Edwards must live within the Constitution."

Edwards has vowed to appeal the decision, but his office will not attempt to enforce the executive order while waiting for that appeal.

"We are disappointed in the court's ruling today," Edwards said in a statement. "With great respect for the role of the Louisiana Legislature, we continue to believe that discrimination is not a Louisiana value and that we are best served as a state when employment decisions are based solely on an individual's qualifications and job performance."

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