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Several southern states have attracted significant media attention recently for proposed and enacted legislation that would limit the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Much of the publicity surrounding such legislation has focused on efforts to prevent transgender people from using public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

However, this legislation, as we discussed in covering the new North Carolina law, has the potential for broader impact. Of particular concern is employment discrimination. Multiple powerful organizations, including the National Football League and Deutsche Bank, have threatened to stop bringing jobs and development to states with such discriminatory laws.

New Order Applies to State Workers

In Louisiana, however, Gov. John Bel Edwards has taken a step toward protecting the rights of LGBT Louisianans. Edwards has rescinded an executive order signed by his predecessor, Gov. Bobby Jindal. Edwards' new executive order will help prevent employment discrimination against gay and transgender workers who work for the state.

The Forum for Equality called the Louisiana governor's move "a bold stroke to broaden equality in Louisiana." Another group, Equality Louisiana, said it hoped that Edwards' action would propel the state's lawmakers "to extend these employment protections to all workers in Louisiana, in both the public and private sectors." Edwards' executive order includes sexual orientation and gender identity in the list of characteristics for which people cannot be discriminated against in state jobs.

Edwards: Previous Order Was "Bad for Business"

Gov. Edwards called the previous order "bad for business, tourism and the Louisiana economy ... that divide[d] our state." The Democratic governor said that the order enacted by his Republican predecessor was enacted to "serve a narrow political agenda."

Edwards signed the order following months of pressure from local business groups and giant corporations like IBM. That order had faced criticism from local businesses as well as international corporations. IBM warned that it would "create a hostile environment for our current and prospective employees."

It seems like common sense that employers would benefit from not limiting their talent pool by discriminating against people for characteristics unrelated to their ability to do their job. Sadly, however, too many employers and those people they place in managerial positions have deeply-ingrained biases that impact how they a hire and treat employees. Employment attorneys work to help those who have faced illegal discrimination in the workplace fight for justice.

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