BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Under federal law, people can’t discriminate against others for their gender identity and sexual orientation when it comes to buying or renting housing. But Louisiana hasn’t adopted that to its own books yet. HB303 aims to fix that.
The bill by Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman looks to bring Louisiana into compliance with federal law. It would protect Louisianans from discrimination for their gender identity and sexual orientation when trying to buy or rent property. Rep. Freeman said without putting the law in state statute it could cause confusion for landlords and open the door to unfairness in the housing market.
“We haven’t always had the civil rights protections we have today and as they’ve been added at the federal level it has often taken Louisiana decades to finally include them in our state laws. Dragging our feet to denounce discrimination in our state code is not something I think we’re proud of,” said Maxwell Ciardullo, director of policy and communications for Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center.
Ciardullo shared the story from the hearing on this bill last year of how a woman was evicted for her girlfriend coming over.
“Eventually her landlord terminated her tenancy because of the visits by her girlfriend. The question at hand today is whether it should be the policy of the state of Louisiana to defend this kind of behavior,” Ciardullo said.
A recent Supreme Court ruling puts gender identity and sexual orientation under the umbrella of protected classes.
Some lawmakers didn’t see the need for the bill, but those for it emphasized being consistent with federal law is crucial. There were a number of red cards against the bill, but nobody took the stand to explain why they were against it. Representative Royce Duplessis took issue with that.
“We’re talking about discrimination and the fact that we can just put in a red card with there being nobody with the courage to come to the table and explain why this bill should not be law I think is very problematic,” Rep. Duplessis said.
Rep. Scott McKnight made a motion to voluntarily defer the bill but fell short of enough votes after Rep. Duplessis’ speech. After that vote, the bill passed without any objection. It now heads to the full House for debate.