Bill to ban discrimination against gays withdrawn

Acknowledging that she did not have enough votes to advance the bill, state Rep. Karen St. Germain withdrew legislation that would have forbidden many Louisiana employers from discriminating against gays in the workplace.

“I might have three votes,” St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, said after voluntarily deferring House Bill 887. The parliamentary move allows her to bring the measure back up, if she wants, before the session ends on June 2. She said she would try again next year.

St. Germain told a group of supporters in the hall outside the House Civil Law and Procedures Committee that she pulled the plug because continuing would have subjected supporters to a likely barrage of anti-gay talk from the opponents.

“I didn’t want y’all to have to listen to that stupidity,” St. Germain said. “I am part of the business community and I can’t believe that people could go so far, thinking the way they do.”

Among those signing “red cards” that denotes their opposition to the measure was the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the National Federation of Independent Business, Eagle Forum and two individuals.

Jeremy Abbott, a graphic designer who traveled from Shreveport to testify, said he was “disappointed but not surprised.”

“I can be fired by a civilian employer based on who I love,” testified Ariel Goolsby, of Gretna, a decorated war veteran.

HB887 prohibits failure or refusal to hire or to discharge, or otherwise to intentionally discriminate against any individual based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Bruce Parker, director of Louisiana Progress, a Baton Rouge-based group pressing politically liberal issues, said the legislation would add no new requirements on employers, such as requiring benefits to cover partners. It would not apply to religious organizations or employers with less than 20 workers, he said.

Julie Cherry of the Louisiana AFL CIO said organized labor also backed the legislation, adding that most of the nation’s largest companies voluntarily put the policies in place.

Tim West, president of Equality Louisiana, said 133 businesses in Louisiana have adopted the policies.