equality begins at home
Volume 17/Issue 6

Educational Billboards Up Around State;
Blocked in New Orleans

Educational billboards around the state have been called misleading by a New Orleans company. Signs stating "Louisiana Says It's OK to Fire People Because They Are Gay - Is That Fair?" appeared recently in the Baton Rouge area, and are scheduled to go up in Shreveport and Lake Charles.

The same signs were contracted through another company to appear in New Orleans. With the signs printed and ready to place, Outdoor Systems decided at the last minute not to put them up, stating that they would mislead the people of New Orleans. While it is true that New Orleans has a Human Rights Ordinance banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, the state of Louisiana has no such law. And while the New Orleans ordinance provides for complaint adjudication by the city's Human Relations Commission, a state law would provide a statutory basis for civil actions for damages. The billboards explicitly and clearly address the state of Louisiana and not the city of New Orleans.

Outdoor Systems' stated reason for not putting up the boards is questionable at best, and many people in the LGBT community have expressed concern about the last minute timing of the decision. As Randal Beach, president of the Louisiana Electorate of Gays and Lesbians, Inc. (LEGAL), stated, "Outdoor Systems had the artwork for the boards for weeks, and they had a contract with us. Why did they wait until the last minute to refuse to put up the boards? I find it impossible to follow their reasoning, and I suspect others will also."

"Today we hoped to unveil a billboard campaign intended to help eradicate discrimination. Instead, we are yet another example of Gay and Lesbian people being discriminated against," said Christopher Daigle, a member of LEGAL's board of directors. "We find the explanation by officials with the billboard company dubious at best. They have known the text of these billboards for some time, and it's obvious that the billboards are not targeting New Orleans, but rather the state of Louisiana," added Daigle.

LEGAL has not yet announced what action it will take in response. "This is exactly what Equality Begins at Home is about: educating people about the realities of the mistreatment of GLBT people in our nation and taking action to create lasting change, where we are all equal," said Tracey Conaty, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force communications director.

Sponsored by 'Equality Begins At Home' in conjunction with the LEGAL, the billboards are part of an ambitious educational campaign to alert the public to the fact that people in Louisiana can be fired without regard for job performance. Despite laws banning employment discrimination on the basis of such factors as race, color, creed, religion, gender and nationality , it is still legal in Louisiana to fire someone because of sexual orientation alone. While surveys consistently show that the public overwhelmingly supports job protection based on sexual orientation, many are unaware that there is no such protection in Louisiana.

* Randal Beach, President of LEGAL: "This has nothing to do with special rights, and everything to do with basic civil rights. Everyone should be allowed to work."

* Christopher Daigle, Co-Chair of LAGPAC [Louisiana Lesbian & Gay Political Action Caucus]: "The time is long overdue to right this fundamental wrong. Job performance is the only criteria that should affect a person's employment."

* Jan Harrell, New Orleans Human Relations Commission: "I find it astonishing that people still must fear losing their employment solely because they are Gay or Lesbian. There is no more fundamental American value than the expectation of fairness in the workplace."

* Sandra Pailet, President of the New Orleans chapter of P-FLAG : "How can I tell my son that he is somehow less deserving than his brother of fundamental equality and basic civil rights?"

"Equality Begins At Home-Louisiana!" is part of a nationwide "Equality Begins At Home" project. Actions and events across the nation the week of Mar. 21-27, seek to promote civil equality and justice for all LGBT citizens of the United States.

Related Activities and Events: "Equality Begins At Home-Louisiana!" Statewide Conference Sat., Mar. 27, 10am-3pm, Joie de Vivre MCC, LSU Campus, 333 Chimes St., Baton Rouge, LA;and, "Equality Begins At Home-Louisiana!" Grand Marquee Event Sat., Mar. 27, 8pm-11pm, Louisiana's Old State Capitol, Grand Rotunda, 100 North Boulevard, Baton Rouge,LA.

Equality Begins at Home, the first-ever campaign of actions in all 50 states for equality, is turning into one of the largest political actions in the history of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender movement. Activists in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have organized more than 250 events to address issues of anti-Gay discrimination, violence, and prejudice. Equality Begins at Home is coordinated by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and organized by the Federation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Statewide Political Organizations. LEGAL is a member of the Federation.

For more information on Equality Begins At Home - Louisiana, write to PO Box 70344, New Orleans, LA 70172; phone 504.595.8586; or E-mail: ebahla@aol.com.

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