Poll: Majority of residents favor fairness ordinance

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Eunice, La. native Jody Huckaby, left, national executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), talks Saturday with Carol Frazier, Baton Rouge PFLAG chapter president,  at the 2013 Baton Rouge Pride Fest, at the Belle of Baton Rouge Atrium. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Eunice, La. native Jody Huckaby, left, national executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), talks Saturday with Carol Frazier, Baton Rouge PFLAG chapter president, at the 2013 Baton Rouge Pride Fest, at the Belle of Baton Rouge Atrium.

Ordinance again before City Council

A majority of East Baton Rouge Parish residents who responded to a poll sponsored by a nonprofit local foundation say they are supportive of a “Fairness Ordinance” prohibiting discrimination in housing and employment.

The question about the measure, which the Baton Rouge Metro Council is set to vote on next week, was asked in the annual CityStats poll, sponsored by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. The poll will be released in full next week.

Nearly 62 percent of those who responded to the parishwide poll supported such an ordinance, according to a BRAF news release issued Tuesday. A majority of people across all demographics and political parties backed the ordinance.

The question specifically asked: “Would you support or oppose a city ordinance that prohibits discrimination in housing and employment based on an individual’s sexual orientation?”

The strongest support came from educated young professionals — with 73 percent of people with graduate degrees and 71 percent of people age 35 to 44 supporting the measure.

BRAF President John Davies said he wanted the Metro Council to see, ahead of its vote, that the majority of Baton Rouge residents are supportive of protecting the rights of gays, lesbians and transgender people.

“I think the more the council members understand the extraordinary economic development impact of this ordinance ... the more they’ll be compelled to support it,” Davies said. “These are good people that sit on the council. They will come to the right conclusion and keep us competitive in the future.”

This is the first time City-Stats has asked a question specifically about supporting an ordinance, but over the past few years people have been asked whether they support same-sex marriage.

The poll shows that respondents in Baton Rouge are growing more accepting of gay marriage every year, and now a majority of Baton Rouge residents support same-sex marriage, Davies said.

But Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso, who has been upfront with his opposition to the ordinance, said that poll results won’t impact his decision to vote no.

He said he agrees that discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people is wrong but is concerned the ordinance will “create a new protected class” and “expose the city and businesses to future lawsuits.”

If anything, Amoroso said, the poll demonstrates Baton Rouge residents are widely tolerant of the LGBT community and that discrimination is not a problem.

“I’m thrilled the poll shows that no one wants people to be discriminated against,” he said. “But these types of numbers prove my point that you don’t see the discrimination.”

The poll was conducted by LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab between April and May. The sample was 362 landlines and 160 cellphones for a total of 522 responses. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.3 percent.

The Metro Council is expected to vote on the ordinance, sponsored by Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle, at a council meeting on July 23.

The ordinance would bar discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, sex, veteran’s status, gender identity and sexual orientation. It doesn’t apply to religious groups, private clubs or restrooms.

The ordinance would allow those who discriminate in these areas to be sued in district court.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow City Hall Buzz blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/cityhallbuzz/.