States map 2015 for blog Written by Don Byrd

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards last week signed an Executive Order prohibiting government agencies from discrimination in hiring or awarding contracts, including on the basis of sexual orientation or identity. Furthermore, all contracts with the state must include similar employment non-discrimination provisions. The Order exempts religious organizations from this requirement.

The action rescinds a controversial Executive Order signed by the previous Governor ordering state agencies not to take certain adverse actions against any person/corporation for conduct in accordance with the person’s religious objection to same-sex marriage. Governor Edwards’ Order leaves Louisiana’s RFRA law intact, clarifying that it should not be read as inconsistent with that law’s religious freedom protections.

In a statement explaining the move, Governor Edwards suggested that we do not have to choose between religious freedom and civil rights. Here is an excerpt:

“We respect our fellow citizens for their beliefs, but we do not discriminate based on our disagreements. I believe in giving every Louisianan the opportunity to be successful and to thrive in our state. Our goal is to promote the opportunities we have right here in Louisiana. While this executive order respects the religious beliefs of our people, it also signals to the rest of the country that discrimination is not a Louisiana value, but rather, that Louisiana is a state that is respectful and inclusive of everyone around us.”

Edwards’ Order rejects an approach to religious liberty – broadly insulating same-sex marriage objectors from government penalty – that has gained momentum elsewhere, including Mississippi’s recently enacted law. Will more states/Governors follow suit?