Vote on 'Fairness Ordinance' Will Have to Wait

Jul 24, 2014

Barrington Neil, who spoke of experiencing discrimination for being in an interracial marriage, listens to the hearing on the "Fairness Ordinance" at the Baton Rouge Metro Council meeting, July 23, 2014.
Credit Amy Jeffries / WRKF

The Baton Rouge Metro Council heard hours of public comment Wednesday on an anti-discrimination ordinance. But the meeting time expired before the council could vote. 

Under the “fairness ordinance” offered by Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle discrimination in employment, housing, or public accommodation in Baton Rouge would be cause for a civil suit. 

The ordinance would grant protections to a litany of groups — including seniors and veterans — but it’s the protections from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation that got nearly all the attention Wednesday. 

The bible was referenced a lot, including by Mayor Kip Holden in his support of the ordinance. 

“I will stay in favor of this. And ask us to pray for one another," Holden said. 

“I’ve got a more secular reason why this fairness ordinance is good.”  That reason, said Lamar Advertising President Kevin Reilly: recruitment. He was the first in a parade of executives to say the ordinance would help Baton Rouge compete for top talent with cities like Atlanta and Houston that have already passed similar measures. 

But, Gene Mills, of the Louisiana Family Forum, said it would bring discrimination against some people of faith. 

“The compulsory effort to dictate that you’ve gotta respect another person’s lifestyle that you may hold a deeply held religious belief on is not the policy of a council," Mills said. 

When the hearing concluded with just a few minutes left in the meeting, Councilman John Delgado ran out the clock, effectively scuttling a vote.

“We’re not gonna rush to a vote in this chamber," said Delgado. "We’re gonna have a frank discussion on the council floor where all of my colleagues can put their positions out in the public, not just press a button.” 

That could happen at the next Metro Council meeting,  which is on the calendar for Aug. 13. 

Should the fairness ordinance fail then, Delgado is gathering signatures on a petition to put the issue on a ballot. 

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect that the next council meeting is on Aug. 13.