News (USA)

After court ruling, LA governor refuses to rescind LGBT nondiscrimination order

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday that he won’t change his order requiring LGBT rights protection language in most state contracts, despite a loss in court in his dispute with the state’s attorney general over the anti-discrimination clause.

“I cannot imagine any circumstance under which I’m going to rescind the executive order,” the Democratic governor said on his radio call-in show. “And, of course, I hope to be able to work it out with the attorney general. At the present, it doesn’t seem that that’s going to be possible.”

Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry has blocked dozens of contracts that contain the anti-discrimination language, saying the governor’s executive order exceeds his authority.

Edwards sued, trying to force Landry to sign off on the contracts, which would enable state agencies and boards to hire outside lawyers.

Judge Donald Johnson in Baton Rouge ruled against the governor this week, but didn’t weigh in on whether Edwards’ executive order was legal. Instead, he sided with Landry on a technicality, suggesting the attorney general has discretion in how his office reviews the legal contracts.

The governor said he and his lawyers will soon “announce a course of action” in response to the decision.

Edwards said more than 40 state agencies, boards and commissions have been unable to hire outside attorneys amid the dispute, but he said he won’t budge, because “bigotry and discrimination are not Louisiana values.”

The attorney general’s office isn’t shifting its stance, either.

“We’ll approve contracts that are consistent with state law. That’s what we have done, and that’s what we’ll continue to do,” Landry spokeswoman Ruth Wisher said Wednesday.

Other state contracts — over which Landry’s office has no oversight — have been enacted with the language, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, except when the contractors are religious organizations.

Lawmakers have refused to add such protections into Louisiana law, and Landry said the order improperly attempts to establish a new protected class of people that doesn’t exist in statute. The attorney general said he’s acting in line with legislative intent in refusing to support the LGBT rights language in state contracts.

Edwards’ lawyer unsuccessfully argued in court that Landry’s office is only supposed to do a “ministerial” review of contracts for agencies and boards to hire outside lawyers, making sure the lawyers are qualified to do the work and that the fee structure complies with Louisiana law.

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