BATON ROUGE – Amid a shifting political landscape and a second trip to court, two of Louisiana’s highest-elected officials, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry, continue to spar over LGBT-inclusive legislation, among other hot-button issues.
A Republican from the get-go, Landry has clashed with the Democratic governor since the two assumed office on Jan. 11.
Edwards filed a lawsuit against Landry on Sept. 30 for allegedly blocking more than 37 state government contracts because of their inclusion of language intended to protect members of the LGBT community. Landry has also openly rejected Gov. Edwards’ executive order to officially ban discrimination against the LGBT community by the state government.
“This is all part of the cultural politics of Louisiana,” Political Analyst Edward E. Chervenak, who is also assistant professor director of the University of New Orleans’ Survey Research Center, told the Louisiana Record.
Edwards’ lawsuit against the attorney general was officially rejected by a Baton Rouge district court on Oct. 18. However, the political bickering and resulting legislative gridlock in the Louisiana state government are representative of the bipartisan polarization and warring ideological factions that have a hand not only in Louisiana politics, but those of the United States as a whole.
“What we’re seeing is a partisan divide in the state represented by Jeff Landry and John Bel Edwards. We’re seeing partisan politics at the national level seep down to the state level,” Chervenak said.
While larger metropolitan areas, such as New Orleans, tend to see eye-to-eye with the governor, the larger Louisiana populace is more what one might expect of a southern state in the Bible Belt. Noting that Landry has consistently posited himself against Edwards on a number of hot-button issues, including LGBT protections, illegal immigration and abortion, many have suggested that the Republican attorney general may be setting himself up as a viable, conservative alternative to the Democrat governor in order to run for the governorship in 2019. Many have wondered if Landry’s motivations for blocking the governor at every turn might be the same.
“The state elected a democratic governor but is still a reliably red, Republican state, so [Landry’s] goal is to make sure that Gov. Edwards is not successful during his tenure, then offer himself up as an alternative a few years from now,” said Chervenak.
Regardless of his alleged political ambitions, Landry said he was opposed to the LGBT language for several reasons, the primary reason being that the Louisiana Attorney General’s office mandates that all contractual anti-discrimination clauses be included in compliance with federal and state law, which is supported by the fact that LGBT persons are not technically recognized or protected under state law. He also responded to the governor’s executive order banning transgender discrimination by stating that it could not be legally enforced for the reasons stated above, and since similar measures had not been successfully passed through the Louisiana Legislature or signed into law.