LGBT community expresses concern that La. lawmakers did not pass anti-discrimination bills

LGBT community expresses concern that La. lawmakers did not pass anti-discrimination bills

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A memorial service at the Louisiana State Capitol to honor those who died in a shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida left some members of the state's LGBT community frustrated.

Earlier this year during the regular session, some of the lawmakers in attendance voted against bills that would have increased protections for members of the gay community in Louisiana.

"It is uncomfortable to commemorate that in a context that doesn't acknowledge where this shooting took place, who these victims were, and how that connects to the violence that LGBT people face in their everyday lives. This is not a new phenomenon," said Matthew Patterson, managing director of the LGBT rights organization Equality Louisiana.

Fifty people died Sunday when a gunman opened fire in Pulse, an Orlando club. The ceremony at the Louisiana Capitol, attended by lawmakers from both chambers as well as the governor, was held Monday afternoon.

"We stand united in sorrow and to defend our citizens against these despicable acts," Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, said during the service.

Alario is just one of 25 senators who voted against a bill that would have prevented employment discrimination against members of the LGBT community. Sponsored by Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, SB 436 advanced through Senate committee before dying on the Senate floor with a vote of 8-25.

"It wasn't so much against that faction, it was more against employers feeling they may be sued for actions that were unintended. There's always an unintended consequence when you look at the legal ramification of those things," Alario said.

Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, sponsored a more expansive anti-discrimination bill this year. In addition to creating workplace protections, SB 332 also would have prevented discrimination against the LGBT community in getting access to housing and services.

It never got off the Senate floor.

"You can't, on one hand, send out your well-wishes and your sorrow on what happened in Florida, while at the same time as legislators voting to allow discrimination against the people that were murdered in Florida," Morrell said.

Patterson admits bills like this could not prevent an attack like the one in Orlando from happening in Louisiana. However, he said, having those bills made law would go a long way changing how people talk and think about the LGBT community.

"Passing an employment law will not stop someone from carrying two guns into a crowded club and killing 50 people, but it is a step toward building a culture where people do not act out in violent against us," Patterson said.

Lawmakers cannot take up anti-discrimination bills again until the next regular session, which will take place next spring.

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