It will remain legal to deny housing to the LGBT community based solely on their sexual orientation in Louisiana after the state House committee voted down a bill prohibiting this act on March 31.
The House Commerce Committee voted 13-5 to take down the bill presented by Rep. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans, prohibiting housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Right now, it’s a federal law by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that property owners receiving federal subsidies can’t discrimination based on sexual orientation, but private owners in Louisiana are still allowed to do so.
“Despite HB 804 not moving forward, there is still hope for fair housing legislation in the 2014 legislative session,” Equality Louisiana Managing Director Tucker Berry said.
The fair housing bill was one of several bills Equality Louisiana, a LGBT advocacy group in Baton Rouge, supported. While the group’s Research and Policy Coordinator, Matthew Patterson, is optimistic about the other bills, he was surprised with the outcome of this one.
“I am personally disappointed that we did not hold on to all the Democratic votes,” Patterson said. The group is going to amend a portion of the bill that protected people based on “marital status” and hope this will help moving forward.
“We will talk to absolutely sit down with anyone who is willing to have an honest discussion with us,” Patterson said.
Maurice Dugas, a property owner in Pineville, said he thinks allowing LGBT Louisianians to sue for damages if denied access to housing could “cause some major problems.”
Kathleen Benfield from the conservative Christian organization, the American Family Association of New Orleans testified against the bill on behalf of the Louisiana Family Forum’s Gene Mills who couldn’t be at the hearing. She argued that Brossett didn’t present proof that the LGBT community is being discriminated against.
“In my opinion, this legislation is a solution in search of a problem – that there is not a problem,” Benfield said.
James Perry of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center said that a safety argument isn’t valid because anyone who breaks the law or rules of the housing complex will be kicked out, regardless of their sexuality.
“The issue here is that if someone breaks the law…then they get evicted,” Perry said. “Doesn’t matter if they’re gay or not, doesn’t matter if they’re black or they’re white.”
Both Perry and Brossett said the bill would be good for business as most Fortune 100 companies already have these types of policies.
“I hope we can all agree that no one should be made homeless under any circumstance…Members, this is about, in my opinion, moving this state forward,” Brossett said.
Several other non-discrimination bills have been filed for this year, though no debate has been scheduled yet.