Next Thursday, I'll be heading to New Orleans to join my friends who call the city home for its annual Labor Day debauchery, also known as Southern Decadence. It will be the first time I have been to the city since it was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. And I'll be arriving in the Big Easy as one political convention has just ended and one is gearing up to begin.
While it may seem odd to link Southern Decadance, partying in New Orleans and the 2008 race for the White House, there's troubling news just out from the AP that stitches it all together. That link is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, rumored to be on Senator John McCain's VP short list. Early Thursday morning, Jindal announced that he plans a huge step backwards for Louisiana's vibrant gay community.
By Friday morning, anti-gay discrimination in Jindal's state will be legal once again.
Governor Jindal, a former Congressman who is also (really!) an exorcist, told the media on Thursday that he has no plans to renew an executive order, signed in 2004 by his predecessor Kathleen Blanco, which prohibits discrimination and harassment against state workers and contractors. Among the categories included in the order is sexual orientation.
"Jindal said Wednesday that discrimination is prohibited under state and federal laws and he doesn't want to create more special categories by executive order," the Associated Press reported. "He also said he worried it could cause problems with faith-based organizations' ability to contract with the state . . . "
"We're not going to renew it. That shouldn't come as a surprise," he said.
What may come as a surprise, however, is Jindal's stunning ignorance of the law. There is, of course, no federal (or state) statute that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, as Jindal well knows. During his time in the House of Representatives, Jindal voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ensuring that no such federal protections were made available to the community.
So while he told the AP that "we oppose discrimination," his actions fail to keep up with his words.
There has also been no known instance where a faith-based organization or contractor has been unwilling or unable to work with the state, or has complained that Blanco's executive order impeded their ability to do so. In short, there isn't a shred of evidence to support Jindal's justification for allowing the law to die.
In a statement released earlier today, Julie Thompson, president of the New Orleans chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, called Jindal's proposal anti-family.
"Governor Jindal is proposing an unacceptable step backwards for Louisiana," Thompson said. "Our state's proud history of 'Union, Justice, Confidence' is undermined when our public leaders strip our families of basic protections we should all enjoy. There is nothing 'pro-family' about rolling back protections for some families."
"Allowing Louisiana's anti-discrimination order to expire would mean the end of any legal protection for gay citizens in the state," the organization's executive director added. "By not renewing this critically important measure, Governor Jindal would remove the welcome mat from Louisiana's front door. It is imperative, and urgent, that the Governor not allow the state's commitment to non-discrimination to expire."
Don't let Bobby Jindal roll-back protections for Louisiana's families.
Call Governor Jindal's office, at (225) 342-0991, and let him know that discriminating against gays is bad policy, and bad business, for Louisiana.
Bobby Jindal's prejudice is a decadence we can all live without.
Louisiana does not need a governor - and our country does not need a VP - who believes that some people are less equal than others.