Statement from FFL on First Circuit Court of Appeal's decision on Gov. Edwards' LGBTQ executive order

Lousiana’s

It is moments like this that underscore FFL's commitment to fulfill its mission to invest in people and practices that work to reduce vulnerability and build stronger, more sustainable communities statewide, and to expand the narrative on what safety and freedom mean to LGBTQ people living in Louisiana.

Foundation for Louisiana (FFL) remains strong in our support for Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and the state’s LGBTQ community in opposition to Louisiana’s First Circuit Court of Appeal’s recent decision to strike down the governor’s executive order to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people working for state government from discrimination, harassment and firing.

Furthermore, we encourage Gov. Edwards to appeal this decision and hope that this case will be taken to the Louisiana Supreme Court for review.

It is moments like this that underscore FFL’s commitment to fulfill its mission to invest in people and practices that work to reduce vulnerability and build stronger, more sustainable communities statewide, and to expand the narrative on what safety and freedom mean to LGBTQ people living in Louisiana. The LGBTQ adult population of Louisiana is an estimated 112,000, or 3.8 percent — the 26th highest adult population in United States, including Washington, D.C. Yet this community, like many of those in the Deep South, faces a steady barrage of individual and systemic forms of discrimination and bias. We know that LGBTQ people are more likely than anyone to be the target of hate crimes. We also know that even within the LGBTQ community, trans people in New Orleans are far more likely to suffer some form of harassment from the police. According to BreakOUT!, “84 percent of transgender respondents feel they have been targeted by police for their sexual orientation or gender identity or gender expression compared with 45 percent of cisgender respondents.”

Additionally, LGBTQ people of color in Louisiana are less likely to find steady employment, housing, and medical care than their straight and white counterparts. For all of these reasons, we know that the struggle for LGBTQ Louisianans goes beyond legislation and into countless aspects of their everyday lives.

The battle for LGBTQ rights has gained prominence in recent years and state-sanctioned legislative changes – such as equal marriage initiatives – have furthered the goal of equality despite the continued discrimination, violence and hatred faced by LGBTQ communities. Seven local municipalities in Louisiana protect LGBTQ people from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation through the use of local ordinances. According to the Williams Institute, “Two of these localities, New Orleans and Shreveport, have broad ordinances, which prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in both public and private sector employment. The other five localities’ policies protect only local government employees.” All residents of Louisiana should be protected from discrimination, but at minimum, state employees should enjoy the right to live full and complete lives.

FFL’s work to help reduce this type of vulnerability was underscored with the recent establishment of its Louisiana LGBTQ Fund, thanks to a $50,000 matching grant from Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ Out in the South program, and for which FFL hopes to raise an additional $250,000 by the end of 2018.

“We have a strong commitment at the Foundation for Louisiana to work with all groups of people who are systemically marginalized in this state. We know that LGBTQ Louisianans — many of whom are people of color — face compounded discrimination when it comes to accessing housing, healthcare, employment, safety and other basic needs. They are also criminalized at higher rates, and subjected to high rates of violence as evidenced by the murders of three trans women of color in Louisiana earlier this year. We want to support efforts to shift this,” Flozell Daniels Jr., President and CEO of FFL, said of the establishment of the fund.

We agree with Gov. Edwards’ statement, which in part said: “Discrimination in state government and by state contractors is wrong, makes us weaker, and is bad for business and economic development.” Louisianans deserve better.

We also support our partners in our LGBTQ work, including Forum for Equality (one of our grantees). As Forum for Equality Executive Director SarahJane Brady and Dylan Waguespack, President of Louisiana Trans Advocates (both members of FFL’s LGBTQ advisory board) recently wrote, “This decision does not mark the end of this battle. As we saw with the NBA’s decision to pull out of North Carolina, our state can expect to lose our competitive edge for securing and retaining businesses if we are not proactively fighting for equality.”

Daniels said. “We know what the vast majority of the American people support federal non-discrimination protection for LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing, access to public places and other areas, and believe that the citizens of this state deserve that same kind of support. We will continue our work to make that reality happen.”

We also recognize that while fighting for protections of civil workers through legislation — and against oppressive legal decisions — is foundational to our work, it only scratches the surface of the struggles that the LGBTQ community faces in Louisiana. Foundation for Louisiana remains committed to working for the rights of all members of the LGBTQ community wherever they may be — whether it’s in the workforce or anywhere else. We hope you will join us in this work.