Nine out of ten Americans mistakenly believe that discrimination based on sexual orientation is already banned, but in fact employees in 29 states are not protected against discrimination based on sexual orientation. 37 states offer no protections for transgender employees.
Louisiana's House Committee sustained its position on that list this week when it rejected a ban on discrimination of state government employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The 6-3 vote in the Louisiana House and Governmental Affairs committee shelved a bill proposed by Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) that would ban all state employers from discriminating, firing, harassing, or demoting any employees on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Rep. Badon has presented similar measures in years past that have all failed in the House.
"I'm a Christian. I read the Bible. I believe the word. But I don't dare judge my fellow man ... In 2013 America, we should not condone, tolerate or exacerbate discrimination," a frustrated Rep. Badon told the press. His bill would have offered discrimination protection to LGBT state employees similar to existing protections for race, religion, national ancestry, age, sex or disability.
Opponents of Rep. Badon's bill claimed that expanding the protects for LGBT state government employees would "advance a sexual politics agenda" and that existing state laws adequately protect employees.
According to influential Rev. Dale Hoffpauir, a Lafayette church pastor and chief operating officer of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum, the proposal "does not remedy an existing problem, and it opens the gate for potential contentious and expensive litigation."
Hoffpauir believes that people don't choose their race or gender, but can choose to leave the "gay lifestyle."
Studies have already shown that workforce discrimination and harassment against gay and transgender employees is inordinately high. Any where from 15-43% of LGBT employees report that they have experienced some kind of discrimination or harassment in their workplace, and a disturbingly high 90% of transgender employees report the same.
Congress is working on a federal solution for this problem even if it comes embarrassingly late. On Thursday, a uniquely bipartisan bill titled Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2013 was reintroduced for the 9th time since 1994 to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity across the board.
Businesses with fewer than 15 employees would be exempt from this regulation, but this would provide a huge step forward for LGBT employees across the country. Democrat Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), one of the co-sponsors of the House bill, summarized the increased bipartisan support for this issue:
"Dedicated individuals should be judged based on their work, nothing more and nothing less. I am proud to reintroduce the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with [Republican] Representative Ros-Lehtinen and so many of our colleagues in the House of Representatives. We will work together to see the federal workplace protections in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed into law."