A Louisiana court blocked an executive order on Wednesday that protected state employees from being fired on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
A three-judge panel of First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, had overstepped his executive authority by enacting policies that are not spelled out in the state’s current civil rights code.
“The Governor’s Executive Order in this case goes beyond a mere policy statement or directive to fulfill law, because there is no current state or federal law specifically outlining anti-discrimination laws concerning and/or defining sexual orientation or gender identity,” says Judge Toni Higginbotham in a written opinion from the court.
“The current laws simply prohibit discrimination based on a person’s biological sex,” she adds.
That ruling was nearly identical to a lower court decision. Enacted in April 2016, the order was previously blocked following a Dec. 14 injunction. Judge Todd Hernandez of Baton Rouge claimed that Edwards’ move to protect LGBTQ employees amounted to an “unlawful usurp of the constitutional authority vested only in the legislative branch of government.”
The governor criticized the First Circuit for upholding the injunction, pointing to similar protections at the federal level.
“Discrimination in state government and by state contractors is wrong, makes us weaker, and is bad for business and economic development,” Edwards said in a written statement. “Even President Trump agrees, as he has kept in place a federal executive order which is virtually identical to the order I put in place.”
His statement is true, yet slightly misleading as to the White House’s position.
Although the Trump administration has not repealed a 2014 order signed by President Obama which protects LGBTQ federal contractors from discrimination, it has ruled that trans people are ineligible for Title VII protections under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In addition, the Department of Justice issued a “religious freedom” memo in October that could allow queer and trans people to be fired if their identity conflicts with an employer’s “sincerely held religious belief.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has claimed that he isn’t sure if the 25-page document allows for anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
Edwards is considering an appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court, the Washington Post reports.
Prior to another possible court battle, opponents of the governor’s nondiscrimination ordinance celebrated Wednesday’s ruling as a major victory. Attorney General Jeff Landry, who first challenged the order, compared Edwards to a fallen monarch.
“We do not live under a King in Louisiana; we have a Governor, an independent Attorney General, an elected Legislature, and a Court system who are all involved in the governing of our State,” Landry said in a press release. “I applaud the professionalism and attention of the Court of Appeal in these matters.”
At the time of writing, it’s legal to fire someone for being LGBTQ in 30 states.