House committee rejects gay discrimination ban

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A proposed ban on discrimination against state employees because of their sexual orientation failed to win support Wednesday from the Louisiana House and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The 6-3 vote shelves House Bill 85 by state Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, for the legislative session. He’s unsuccessfully pushed similar measures in previous years, always running into strong opposition from religious leaders and conservative organizations.

Badon said people should be judged on their employment qualifications, rather than on whether they are gay.

“I’m a Christian. I read the Bible. I believe the word. But I don’t dare judge my fellow man,” Badon said. He added, “In 2013 America, we should not condone, tolerate or exacerbate discrimination.”

State law already prohibits discrimination on race, religion, national ancestry, age, sex or disability.

Badon’s bill would have declared it unlawful for a state employer to use different standards of treatment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It would have allowed employees who feel they have been discriminated against to appeal to civil service officials or file a lawsuit to challenge the decision.

Opponents said the measure would advance a sexual politics agenda and would give special protections to people who choose a lifestyle that violates biblical teachings. They said existing laws provide adequate protection for state workers.

The proposal “does not remedy an existing problem, and it opens the gate for potential contentious and expensive litigation,” said Rev. Dale Hoffpauir, a Lafayette church pastor and chief operating officer of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum.

Hoffpauir said people can’t choose their race or gender, but can leave the “gay lifestyle.”

Voting FOR banning state employee discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation (3): State Reps. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans; Randal Gaines, D-LaPlace; and Girod Jackson, D-Harvey.

Voting AGAINST HB85 (6): State Reps. Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia; Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales; Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur; Greg Miller, R-Norco; Steve Pugh, R-Ponchatoula; and Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, chairman of the committee.