Editors' Note: This guest blog comes from the Forum For Equality in response to Wesley Ware's post "An Open Letter to Louisiana's LGBt Organization, Forum for Equality."
Dear Mr. Ware,
Thank you for your open letter and expressing your concerns regarding the Baton Rouge Diversity Resolution. First, I would like to clarify that the July 15th Opinion Editorial "Not Enough, But a Start" in the Baton Rouge Advocate was that of the newspaper, and not submitted by the Forum For Equality. I hope the following will answer the points that you made in your letter. ??
Any suggestion that we have turned our back on the Transgender community is ridiculous. In 1991, Orleans Parish passed a city employment non-discrimination ordinance that included "sexual orientation" and that ordinance was revisited in 1997 to include "gender identity." These efforts were a result of hard work and dedication of a coalition of people and organizations, including the Forum.
In 2009, The Forum For Equality worked with a coalition of equality partners to obtain an Executive Order in Shreveport that specifically states both "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in the city's public employment non-discrimination policy.
The Baton Rouge Diversity Resolution was first submitted in 2007 and failed due to the fact that the term "sexual orientation" was included. We did not propose the language of the current resolution, but we do support all endeavors that seek to expand equality to the citizens of Louisiana. We view the Diversity Resolution as an educational tool to enhance understanding on equality issues not only in Baton Rouge, but throughout Louisiana as well. Within twelve months, we will also submit and sponsor an ordinance in Baton Rouge with our coalition partners that is all inclusive of the LGBT community with the specific language of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." ??
We know and respect the contribution and importance of the Transgender community in Louisiana. We worked with the New Orleans LGBT Community Center to remember the 160 transgender people who were murdered last year. We also had the Department of Justice Civil Rights Team here on June 10th to assist them in their investigation of discrimination and harassment of the African American transgender community.
??We realize that there is always more that we can do; we live in a state where the majority of its LGBT citizens can be terminated from their employment, refused services, denied rental properties as well as a many more rights that are denied to them based solely on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The Forum has been dedicated to ending discrimination since 1989 and knows the challenges that are set before us, and while we celebrate the victories we have overcome since then we realize that it is "not enough." That is why we are still here fighting.
??We would like to invite you to sit down with us for a discussion and consider joining our efforts to eventually pass legislation that will bring equality to all Louisianans. ??
Yours in Equality,
John Estrada, M.D.
Chair, Forum For Equality Foundation
Chair, Forum For Equality Louisiana
Political Director, Forum For Equality Louisiana