Anti-discrimination ordinance to be pulled from council agenda

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Louisiana Politics

POSTED: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 5:00am

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 9:51am

Members of the East Baton Rouge Metro Council will not debate a controversial plan to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in housing and employment.

Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle said Tuesday she needs more time to meet with advocacy groups and to write her ordinance, so she plans to pull it from today's agenda.

This is not the first attempt to get the council to commit to ending discrimination, and probably will not be the last.

The first One Baton Rouge resolution failed in 2007. It failed again in 2010, and an ordinance similar to Marcelle's did not get anywhere last year.

"Non-discrimination exists now," claimed Gene Mills, President of Louisiana Family Forum. "It's just based on immutable characteristics which are discernible and determinable."

The ordinance would add sexual orientation to a list that includes race, age, and religion as reasons against which a person cannot be discriminated. Mills, whose organization has led the opposition to past attempts at protecting sexual orientation, said his argument has not changed over the years.

"We don't define what constitutes sexual orientation, the category upon which we will now be prohibited from discriminating against," he said. "And if you can't define it, you can't discern it, and it's not clearly written in law, then it's very difficult to protect it."

New Orleans passed an anti-discrimination policy in 1999, and Shreveport passed one last year after intense scrutiny, but the idea has not gained much traction in the council chambers or at the state capitol.

"And this carpet-bombing approach of trying to hit every city council and all the legislature until you wear people down, look, that's bullying," Mills said. "And [gay rights groups] ought to not be permitted to bully the good people of Baton Rouge."

A large crowd was expected to attend today's council meeting to share their opinions of the ordinance. But based on recent history, it likely would not have gotten much support with the council.

"The members of the council that I've spoken to are tired of this issue," Mills mentioned. "The members of the legislature that I've spoken to are tired of being bullied by the other side. I'm tired of dealing with some of the same subject matter; it's uncomfortable talking about this."

If the proposal comes off today's agenda, it would have to be introduced again and could not be heard for two more weeks. The earliest date the ordinance would be likely to come back is April 23. Mills said he does not think a One Baton Rouge ordinance will ever pass.

"I honestly believe that these efforts have been a waste of taxpayer time, a waste of taxpayer resources," he stated. "The council should consider a policy that would penalize members that bring frivolous efforts before the council that have no chance of passage."

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