C. Denise and Amiee Freeman

State Reps Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, left, and Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, testified Monday, April 19, 2021, about legislation to make it easier to seek court protection from domestic violence.

One Louisiana House committee rejected legislation Monday to stop landlords from treating tenants unjustly based on sexual orientation while another panel approved a bill to ban discrimination against gun sellers.

“I don’t get it,” said New Orleans Democratic Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman, “we worry about people who sell firearms, but don’t worry about discriminating against the LGBTQ community.”

Freeman had sponsored House Bill 282 to bring Louisiana law in line with the federal law that already prohibits landlords and home sellers from terminating tenants or refusing to sell homes because the renter or buyer is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, or queer. The House Commerce Committee refused HB282 on a 4-7 party line vote.

In another hearing room downstairs, the House Appropriations Committee voted 16-5 – only one Democrat siding with the majority – to forbid the state from contracting with any bank or insurance company or other corporation that doesn’t do business with gun manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers.

“Many of our country’s largest companies are actively working to deny essential services to the gun industry,” state Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath, said about his House Bill 597. “What this bill says is if you’re a company that actively discriminates against the firearms industry in hopes enacting de facto gun control you will not benefit from taxpayer dollars in Louisiana.”

After the Feb. 14, 2018 shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which killed 17 and injured 17 others, a number of national sporting goods stores strengthened restrictions on the sale of firearms and several national banks stopped giving loans, handling credit cards, and curtailing other business activities for certain types of manufacturers selling particular types of firearms and high-capacity ammunition equipment, like bump stocks.

Miguez, Attorney General Jeff Landry and State Treasurer John Schroder pushed the state Bond Commission to limit Louisiana from contracting with Bank of America, Citibank, and other institutions that they say discriminate against gun manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. Miguez’s HB597 would put the Bond Commission’s actions into law.

Rep. R. Dewith Carrier, R-Oakdale, agreed: “We are being discriminated against. We need guns to protect us from evil people out there and they’re a lot of them.”

Matthew Block, the governor’s executive counsel, said these major banks are reacting to gun restrictions forwarded by large cities in the northeast and west with two, three times more population than Louisiana. If these large banks and insurance companies have to choose between Louisiana and, say, New York City, Louisiana is going to lose out and, as a consequence, this state’s taxpayers are going to have to pay more for the loans used to expand highways and maintain bridges, he argued.

“This bill is going to cost us money,” Block said. “We should at least be transparent about that.”

“There is no price on liberty,” Miguez replied.

Meanwhile in House Commerce, Rep. Freeman was trying to persuade colleagues to adopt wording that would align Louisiana law with federal laws that were held constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

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Federal law forbids discrimination in the workplace based on sexual identification. On a 6-3 vote in 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court found constitutional the extension of those workplace anti-discrimination restrictions to housing. The position was supported by about 200 major corporations that do not allow discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“It’s a legal standard,” said Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Brusly, adding that the confusion between state and federal law could lead to unnecessary lawsuits that landlords would surely lose.

“For all of us who don’t like litigation if you don’t pass this, in my opinion, you’re encouraging more litigation," Jordan said, "that they are going to lose. I mean it’s already the law.”

“I look at it from a personal choice standpoint,” said Rep. Danny McCormick, R-Oil City. “It ought to be the business owner’s personal choice.”

Apartment complex managers, realtors, and home developers – who usually submit red cards in opposition to most tenant-related legislation – made no move to signify they were against Freeman’s bill. But the Louisiana Family Forum did. The powerful Baton Rouge-based group that advocates conservative doctrine to the evangelical Christian community argued that the measure would insert sexual orientation and gender identity into private property rights.

Gene Mills, who heads Family Forum, didn’t stick around to testify against the legislation. But his Family Forum sent out a call Saturday for its members to urge state representatives to vote against Freeman’s measure.

“HB282 would deprive Louisiana citizens of their right to control their own property by elevating sexual orientation and gender identity to the level of protection afforded to unchangeable and morally neutral characteristics such as race, age, and disability,” the Family Forum said in its “60-Second Brigade Assignment.” “'Sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' are not morally neutral characteristics. Louisiana should reject any legislation which forces Louisiana citizens to violate their own moral and ethical principles."

Voting against forbidding LGBTQ discrimination in housing (7): Commerce Committee Chair Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge; Rep. Bryan Fontenot, R-Thibodaux; Rep. Danny McCormick, R-Oil City; Rep. Scott McKnight, R-Baton Rouge; Rep. Vinney St. Blanc III, R-Franklin; Rep. Phillip Eric Tarver, R-Lake Charles; and Rep. Polly Thomas, R-Metairie.

Voting for HB282 (4): Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans; Rep. Kyle Green Jr., D-Marrero; Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Brusly; and Rep. Candace Newell, D-New Orleans.

Voting to ban state contracts for businesses discriminating against the gun industry (16): House Appropriations Committee Chair Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma; Rep. Roy Daryl Adams, No Party-Jackson; Rep. Tony Bacala; R-Prairieville; Rep. R. Dewith Carrier, R-Oakdale; Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City; Rep. Daryl Deshotel, R-Marksville; Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge; Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria; Rep. John Illg Jr., R-River Ridge; Rep. Timothy Kerner, R-Lafitte; Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro; Rep. Blake Miguez, R-Erath; Rep. Troy Romero, R-Jennings; Rep. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi; and Rep. Christopher Turner, R-Ruston.

Voting against HB597 (5): Rep. Barbara Carpenter, D-Baton Rouge; Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman, D-New Orleans; Rep. Frederick Jones, D-Bastrop; Rep. Rodney Lyons, D-Harvey; and Rep. Dustin Miller, D-Opelousas.

Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.