BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A bill that looked to add protections in the workplace for LGBTQ people failed in a House committee Wednesday. Advocates believe it is critical to codify protections into state law, others said it opens up businesses to lawsuits.
The legislature has advanced bills that would limit discussion around gender identity and sexual orientation in schools and also prevent some kids from getting books about the LGBTQ community.
On the other side of things, HB40 would have protected the community from discrimination in the workplace and in hiring practices. The bill met opposition from people concerned it would force companies to hire gay or transgender people.
“What happens if this bill passes? Who will be teaching? What role models will they provide?” asked Former State Rep. Woody Jenkins.
The bill language does not require someone to be hired. It would ban not hiring, firing, or discriminating against someone solely based on their gender identity and sexual orientation – similar to the protections in place for race, sex, and religious affiliation.
“We need to see people respect people. We need to value people based on their education and experience in the workforce and their ability to do their jobs,” said Melissa Flournoy with Louisiana Progress Action.
People against the bill said hiring LGBTQ people could hurt their business model and drive customers away. But one local business owner spoke against that idea.
“Hiring one, two, or even five employees should not define your brand as a business to the point where people are not willing to shop with you or use your services,” said Corey McCoy, CEO of KOK Wings.
There is already legal precedent protecting these groups under the civil rights act, but it does not explicitly lay out the protections for gender identity and sexual orientation like the bill does.
In the end, lawmakers feared the law would too heavily impact businesses. The bill failed with a vote of 7 to 5 and is finished for the rest of this session.
In response to the bill failing, Congressman Troy Carter said in a statement:
“Thirty years ago tomorrow, I sponsored a signature piece of legislation to prohibit the discrimination of our LGBTQ+ neighbors and friends in the workplace. No one should be denied employment because of who they love. I am proud of my dear sister Representative Delisha Boyd for taking up the mantle and sponsoring HB40 today. I am disappointed that the State Legislature failed to advance this critically important legislation. Our work is not done. I will continue the fight for every Louisianan to truly be equal: at home, at school, at work, and everywhere else.”