BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Gov. John Bel Edwards sued Attorney General Jeff Landry on Friday over his decision to block a series of state contracts that contain an anti-discrimination clause aimed at protecting members of the LGBT community.
In April, the governor signed an executive order aimed at preventing the state from discriminating against members of the LGBT community. As a result, most state contracts include an anti-discrimination clause. Landry has blocked more than 30 state contracts with outside lawyers because he objected to those LGBT protections.
"I believe Jeff Landry is on the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of history on this matter," Edwards said. "To tell people they can only have a contract with the state if they are free to discriminate then that just doesn't make sense to me."
Landry meanwhile argued that the governor's executive order oversteps his authority, creating a new protected class not defined in state law.
"We had just this session a bill in front of the legislature that would have carved out protections for LGBT, that legislation was rejected in a bipartisan fashion," Landry said, referencing a bill that died in the Senate with a vote of 8-25.
The contracts include agreements to hire lawyers for the Department of Insurance, the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, the Department of Natural Resources, the Office of Elderly Affairs, the Patients Compensation Fund, the Secretary of State's office, the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy, the Department of Military Affairs, the State Treasurer, the Department of Economic Development, the Louisiana Workforce Commission, the Division of Administration, and Southeastern Louisiana University.
In part, through this disagreement, the two leaders are playing to their political bases over the issue of gay rights, according to political analyst Jim Engster. Edwards, a Democrat, supports anti-discrimination laws. Landry, a Republican, has opposed efforts to increase protections.
"There's certainly an overbearing aspect of this that go way beyond politics to the social fabric of the state," Engster said.
The ongoing power struggle between the two is also at play as they have butted heads multiple times since they both took office.
"Much of what he is tasked with is ministerial in nature," the governor said, arguing that the AG is asserting more authority than his position allows. The governor said that the AG should simply check that the lawyers are qualified and that their pay is appropriate.
Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, agrees with the governor, believing he will be successful when the case goes to court. Alario voted against the anti-discrimination bill that died in the Senate.
"All of us can't be governor of this state. If you want to be governor, you should run for governor. You don't get the same authority as the attorney general as you do the chief executive," Alario said. "I believe the governor has the constitutional authority to issue an executive order and to follow up on it."
Landry, meanwhile, said he will let the court decide.
"I can respect that process, this is healthy," he said.
The lawsuit was filed with the 19th Judicial District Court. It is scheduled to appear before a judge on Oct. 17.
Below is the lawsuit that the governor has filed against the AG: