Press Room

June 15, 2004

Category: Civil Unions, Domestic Partners

HRC: Louisiana Constitution Should Not Be Used to Discriminate

'Louisianans should be protected by their Constitution, not singled out for discrimination,' said HRC President Cheryl Jacques.

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign condemned the Legislature's passage of a discriminatory amendment to the Louisiana Constitution that would deny marriage, as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships to unmarried couples. The measure will appear on the Sept. 18 ballot and must be approved by voters.

"Louisianans should be protected by their Constitution, not singled out for discrimination," said HRC President Cheryl Jacques. "In a state so rich with diversity, it would be shameful for voters to turn their Constitution into a tool for discrimination."

House Bill 61 passed the House on May 18, 2004, by an 87-11 vote. It was then passed by the Senate on June 9 by a 31-6 vote. It returned to the House June 15 for a vote on changes made by the Senate, and the House voted 88-13 to accept these changes.

"We'll work to educate voters about the real harm this will do to their own family, friends, neighbors and co-workers in Louisiana," said Chris Daigle, executive director of Equality Louisiana. "We'll also make clear that this amendment is not only discriminatory, it's also unnecessary."

This measure proposes to amend the state constitution to declare that marriage is only between a man and a woman and that "any legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized." The effects of this measure could implicate the domestic partner registry in New Orleans as well as the domestic partner benefits extended to city employees, as well as tying the hands of localities and the Legislature from extending any types of rights or benefits to the thousands of same-sex couples living in Louisiana.

"We commend the work of Equality Louisiana in fighting this measure and join the group in urging voters to choose equality and fairness over discrimination when they vote on Sept. 18," added Jacques.

HRC partnered with Equality Louisiana (formerly LAGPAC) in fighting this measure. HRC's state legislative lawyer, Carrie Evans (former co-chair of LAGPAC) returned to Baton Rouge for two weeks to help lobby the Legislature. She also provided testimony in the House Civil Law Committee.

In addition to staff assistance, HRC awarded Equality Louisiana $10,000 to fight the measure. HRC also mobilized its membership in Louisiana - e-mailing them multiple action alerts and calling approximately 1,000 of our members encouraging them to contact their state senator.

In addition, there was significant mainstream opposition to the discriminatory amendment. Every major newspaper in the state editorialized against it and civil rights leader Julian Bond also sent a letter to every member of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus in opposition.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that LGBT Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.