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Louisiana Official Can Reject LGBT-Friendly Contracts

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - Attorney General Jeff Landry can reject dozens of state legal contracts simply due to their including language meant to prevent discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, a Baton Rouge state court ruled.

Judge Donald Johnson of the 19th Judicial District Court said from the bench on Monday that Gov. John Bel Edwards does not have the right to sue Landry to force the attorney general to approve legal contracts with a LGBT provision with which Landry disagrees.

"I believe the law is uncertain — and it does not provide the court with a clear path," Johnson said, according to the Times-Picayune. "This court denies the request of the governor."

If the ruling stays in place, it would give the attorney general the power to refuse state legal contracts for multiple reasons, not just over the LGBT wording.

The governor's office said they will either appeal the court's decision or file a new lawsuit, but either way, they plan not to take the LGBT protections out of legal contracts until all alternative avenues have been exhausted.

"We obviously do intend to get a review of the decision. This matter is too important," Matthew Block, the governor's executive counsel, told the Times-Picayune.

"All along, I have stated my intention to put Louisiana's best interests forward as I serve as the State's chief legal officer," Landry said in a written statement released after Monday's ruling. "I will not cower to executive overreach; rather, I will continue to defend our Constitution and the will of the people."

Landry has reportedly blocked more than 40 state contracts with private law firms from moving forward, in general because they include language that prevents the private firms from discriminating against sexual orientation and gender identity.

Governor Edwards last April issued an executive order that LGBT people be offered the same workplace protections that racial, ethical and religious minorities are given under state law.

Edwards filed the lawsuit against Landry after the two were unsuccessful in settling the matter on their own.

"Defendant apparently believes that it is necessary that private attorneys who contract with entities within the executive branch must retain the right to discriminates against persons on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity," the lawsuit said.

Edwards said previous to the ruling, of Landry, "I believe he is on the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of history."

Attorneys for the governor had argued Landry could only reject legal contracts based on particular qualifications, such as whether attorneys were in good standing with the bar, for instance, and not on the grounds of sexual identity.

Landry's lawyers on the other hand claimed Landry has much broader authority and can reject contracts simply because they contain sexual orientation and preference protection provisions. The court sided with Landry.

While seventeen legislators supported Landry's efforts to block the legal contracts, according to the Times-Picayune, area business leaders say Landry's efforts could be bad for business.

The governor's order that blocked businesses from discriminating against LGBT was reportedly one of the reasons the NBA decided to move its 2017 all-star game to New Orleans, from Charlotte, after the state passed a law restricting transgender people.

Several other large companies have also refused to do business in North Carolina because of restrictions on the LGBT community, a report from the Times-Picayune said.

A clerk in Judge Johnson's office Tuesday said Johnson's order had not yet been signed and for that reason had yet to be released.

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