BATON ROUGE, La. — The Democratic governor of Louisiana has filed a lawsuit against his own attorney general for rejecting state contracts that include anti-discrimination clauses in alignment with an order issued earlier this year by the governor.
“He basically told me that if I wanted him to approve those contracts that I would have to sue him,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a press conference on Sept. 30. “So I’m obliging him on that.”
As previously reported, in April, Edwards rescinded an order from his predecessor, Gov. Bobby Jindal, that would “prohibit the state from denying or revoking a tax exemption, tax deduction, contract, cooperative agreement, loan, professional license, certification, accreditation, or employment on the basis the person acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
Edwards conversely issued his own order declaring that government officials may not act adversely in employment matters over the person’s so-called “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” and barred those who contract with the state from doing the same. He provided an exemption for churches and faith-based organizations.
“All contracts for the purchase of services by any state agencies, departments, offices, commissions, boards, or officers of the state of Louisiana … shall include a provision that the contractor shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, disability, or age in any matter relating to employment,” the order reads in part.
But Attorney General Jeff Landry said that “there is no constitutional or statutory provision in Louisiana banning discrimination on the basis of ‘gender identity'” and that the governor had overstepped his bounds “by attempting to create new legislation in violation of the separation of powers.”
He noted that the state legislature had rejected a bill with requirements similar to Edwards’ order, and said that he didn’t believe the governor had the right to supersede that.
Edwards soon issued a statement about the matter, opining that “the attorney general has overstepped the authority given to his office, and he is now attempting to erode the constitutionally granted executive order power of the governor and disrupting the work of state agencies.”
Landry has now reportedly rejected over 30 contracts that included non-discrimination language, and a meeting between Edwards and Landry has not resulted in an agreement.
“Defendant apparently believes that it is necessary that private attorneys who contract with entities within the executive branch must retain the right to discriminate against persons on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Edwards wrote in his lawsuit.
Landry said during a press conference on the same day Edwards announced the suit, “It’s unfortunate that the governor continues to want to push for a protected class that the legislature has six times—with bipartisan support—rejected.”
“So again, to his executive order, he has pretended to create a protected class that the legislator has rejected, and that is very important, and because he and I have not been able to come to an agreement on that because he does not want to conform to the wishes of the legislature,” he added. “I want to abide by the law. So, I’m guessing he will take that fight—he wants to fight that fight in court.”
Both Edwards and Landry identify as Roman Catholic.