Anti-discrimination bill advances to La. Senate floor

Anti-discrimination bill advances to La. Senate floor

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - While other states including North Carolina are facing lawsuits over so-called discriminatory rules, a bill aimed at banning that against the LGBT community and those with disabilities is gaining some steam at the Louisiana State Capitol.

The bill would apply not just in the work place but also when when applying for a loan or a job license, for example. A Senate judiciary committee advanced the bill Tuesday with a 2-1 vote despite several senators being absent.

SB 332, sponsored by Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, would update existing anti-discrimination legislation that is a few decades old.

Morrell said that older legislation provided protections for those with physical disabilities but not those with mental disabilities like autism. His bill would add them in and also add protections for things like sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.

"When you go before a licensing board, if you are capable of doing the job, the fact that you are mildly autistic should not disqualify you from getting a license for a job," Morrell said.

"The gay marriage ruling didn't say anything about whether you could get fired from your job on Monday if you got married over the weekend, for example," said Matthew Patterson, managing director of Equality Louisiana. "A lot of states still lack those protections, and Louisiana is now a little bit closer to maybe having them."

Patterson was referring to the Supreme Court decision in 2015 regarding same-sex marriage. He said that while that ruling was a big step forward for the LGBT community, bills like SB 332 are important to ensure protections for things like housing and getting loans.

The bill does face pushback from business groups and the Louisiana Family Forum, but they did not testify in committee.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor, where Morrell said he is not necessarily confident it will pass.

A bill aimed at stopping discrimination specifically in the workplace is already waiting to be heard on the Senate floor.

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