LGBT rights in Louisiana

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Map of USA LA.svg
StatusLegal since 2003
(Lawrence v. Texas)
Gender identityAltering sex on birth certificate requires sex reassignment surgery
Discrimination protectionsNone statewide
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsMarriage since 2015
AdoptionNo restrictions

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Louisiana face some legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Louisiana and same-sex marriage has been legal in the state since June 2015. Nevertheless, discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not banned statewide.

In September 2014, two courts, one federal and one state, produced contradictory rulings on the constitutionality of the state's denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples. The U.S. Supreme Court resolved that conflict when it ruled such bans unconstitutional in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015. Two days later, Governor Bobby Jindal said the state would comply with that ruling and license same-sex marriages.

Laws against same-sex sexual activity[edit]

The 2016 edition of New Orleans Pride

There were no laws against same-sex sexual acts in Louisiana until 1805, when Louisiana enacted its first Penal Code after annexation by the United States.[1]

Sexual acts between persons of the same sex are legal in Louisiana. They were previously criminalized under the state's sodomy law, which applied to both homosexuals and heterosexuals. The law was rendered unenforceable in 2003 by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas.[2]

In 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down the part of the statute that criminalized adult consensual anal and oral sex.[3]

In 2013, law enforcement officers in East Baton Rouge Parish arrested men who had engaged in sexual activity banned by the statute. The District Attorney did not prosecute those arrested, and both he and the parish sheriff supported repealing the sodomy statute. In April 2014, a bill to repeal the statute failed in the Louisiana House of Representatives on a 66–27 vote after lobbying in opposition by the Louisiana Family Forum, thus keeping an unconstitutional law on the books.[4][5]

In early May 2018, the Louisiana House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill toughening laws against bestiality and separating them from the unconstitutional sodomy law. The Senate passed the bill later that month in a 36-1 vote, and it was signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards on May 25. Initially, ten Republican lawmakers stated their opposition to the anti-bestiality bill, which was also opposed by conservative groups, including the Louisiana Family Forum.[6][7]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, held that the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples is unconstitutional, invalidating the ban on same-sex marriage in Louisiana.

In 1988 and 1999, Louisiana added provisions to its Civil Code that prohibited same-sex couples from marrying and prohibited the recognition of same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions.[8][9] Louisiana added bans on same-sex marriage and civil unions in its Constitution in 2004.[10]

Two lawsuits challenged the state's bans. In state court in Costanza v. Caldwell, the plaintiffs won initially, but the ruling was stayed pending appeal, which was left unresolved after oral argument was heard on January 29, 2015.[11][12] In federal court in Robicheaux v. George, plaintiffs challenged the state's refusal to recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman ruled on September 3, 2014, for the state, writing that "Louisiana has a legitimate interest ... whether obsolete in the opinion of some, or not, in the opinion of others ... in linking children to an intact family formed by their two biological parents".[13] On appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the case remained unresolved at the time of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell on June 26, 2015. Following the Supreme Courts ruling, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the District Court, where Judge Feldman reversed his order ruling in favor of the Robicheaux plaintiffs.

Adoption and parenting[edit]

On September 22, 2014, state trial court Judge Edward Rubin found Louisiana's prohibition of allowing married same-sex couples to adopt to be unconstitutional and granted the first same-sex adoption in the state of Louisiana in Costanza v. Caldwell.[14]

Prior to Judge Rubin's ruling, Louisiana allowed single persons to adopt and did not explicitly deny adoption or second-parent adoption to same-sex couples.[15]

Louisiana has successfully defended in federal court its refusal to amend the birth certificate of a child born in Louisiana and adopted in New York by a married same-sex couple, who sought to have a new certificate issued with their names as parents as is standard practice for Louisiana-born children adopted by opposite-sex married couples.[16] On October 11, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request from Lambda Legal, representing the plaintiffs in the case, Adar v. Smith, to review the case.[17]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Map of Louisiana parishes and cities that have sexual orientation and/or gender identity anti–employment discrimination ordinances
  Sexual orientation and gender identity with anti–employment discrimination ordinance
  Sexual orientation and gender identity solely in public employment
  Sexual orientation in public employment
  Does not protect sexual orientation and gender identity in employment

On February 17, 1992, Governor Edwin Edwards issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination in state employment on the basis of sexual orientation.[18] In August 1996, Governor Murphy J. Foster, Jr. allowed the executive order to lapse. On December 4, 2004, Governor Kathleen Blanco reissued Edwards' executive order.[19] In August 2008, Governor Bobby Jindal allowed it to expire.[20][21] On April 13, 2016, Governor John Bel Edwards reinstated the provision,[22] as announced shortly after his election.[23] However, Bel Edwards's order was struck down in November 2017 by an appellate court who found that the Governor had overstepped his authority.[24] In March 2018, the Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the appellate court ruling.[25]

In May 2015, a House committee rejected a bill that would have protected people who exercise their religious beliefs on same-sex marriage. However, Governor Jindal then issued an executive order to that end.[26] On April 13, 2016, Governor Edwards rescinded that executive order.

A statewide poll conducted by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab shows overwhelming support for fair treatment of LGBT people in Louisiana. Support was consistent across various demographics, including race, political party, age and region

On April 28, 2016, the Senate Labor Committee approved in a 4–3 vote a bill that would have banned employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.[27] The bill, however, didn't advance any further and died at the end of the legislative term.

The cities of New Orleans,[28] and Shreveport[29][30] prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Lake Charles along with the parish of Jefferson prohibit discrimination against public employees only.

Hate crime law[edit]

Louisiana is one of the few southern states which has a hate crime law that provides for penalty enhancements for crimes motivated by the victim's sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.[31] Passed in 1997, after a lobbying effort of five years, its passage made Louisiana the first state in the Deep South to have such a law.[32] It does not cover gender identity.

Gender identity and expression[edit]

Transgender people are allowed to change their legal gender on their birth certificates in Louisiana. Doing so requires a diagnosis, medical treatment and undergoing sex reassignment surgery.[33]

Domestic violence law[edit]

In June 2017, the Louisiana Legislature (House vote 54-42 and Senate vote 25-13) passed a bill called HB27, to repeal the words "opposite-sex" from the domestic violence statutes. The bill was signed into law by the Governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, and went into full effect on August 1, 2017.[34] At that time, South Carolina was the only state left in the United States to still explicitly only include "people of the opposite-sex" within its domestic violence laws.[35]

National Guard[edit]

Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor in June 2013 invalidating Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the U.S. Department of Defense issued directives requiring state units of the National Guard to enroll the same-sex spouses of guard members in federal benefit programs. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on October 31 said he would insist on compliance.[36] On December 3, Louisiana agreed to conform with DoD policy stating that state workers would be considered federal workers while enrolling same-sex couples for benefits.[37]

Public opinion[edit]

Recent polls have found that, while Louisianians are mostly evenly split in support and opposition to same-sex marriage, support is increasing and opposition is decreasing.

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) poll found that 48% of Louisianans supported same-sex marriage, while 44% were opposed. 8% were undecided. Additionally, 61% supported an anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity. 29% were against. The PRRI also found that 54% were against allowing public businesses to refuse to serve LGBT people due to religious beliefs, while 37% supported such religiously-based refusals.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States
  2. ^ New York Times: "Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Law Banning Sodomy," June 26, 2003. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  3. ^ "Sodomy law revisions are upheld on appeal, Times-Picayune". Archived from the original on 2015-10-18. Retrieved 2012-03-18.
  4. ^ Samuels, Diana (July 28, 2013). "East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office plans to change practices, after report says deputies were ensnaring gay men". Times-Picayune. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  5. ^ O'Donoghue, Julia (April 15, 2014). "Louisiana House votes 27-66 to keep unconstitutional anti-sodomy law on the books". Times-Picayune. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  6. ^ John Bel Edwards signs tougher bestiality bill into law
  7. ^ 10 Louisiana Republicans voted to keep bestiality legal & anal sex against the law, LGBTQ Nation, April 11, 2018
  8. ^ "III. States Where Same-Sex Marriage is Prohibited". Archived from the original on 2014-04-16. Retrieved 2014-06-29.
  9. ^ La. C.C. arts. 89, 3520
  10. ^ "Forum for Equality PAC v. McKeithen". Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  11. ^ "Suspensive Appeal Motion and Order". Retrieved September 26, 2014.
  12. ^ "Louisiana Supreme Court urged to rule in same-sex marriage". January 30, 2015. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
  13. ^ Snow, Justin (September 3, 2014). "Federal judge finds Louisiana same-sex marriage ban constitutional". Metro Weekly. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  14. ^ "Judge rules state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional". The New Orleans Advocate. September 26, 2014. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  15. ^ Human Rights Campaign: Louisiana Adoption Law Archived 2011-05-24 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  16. ^ NOLA: "Gay dads lose appeal in Louisiana birth certificate case," April 12, 2011. Retrieved April 13, 2011.
  17. ^ Bolcer, Julie (October 11, 2011). "Supreme Court Turns Down Adoption Birth Certificate Case". The Advocate. Retrieved June 28, 2015.
  18. ^ La. Exec. Order No. EWE 92-7.
  19. ^ La. Exec. Order No. KBB 04-54.
  20. ^ "Louisiana gov. drops gay anti-discrimination order". Retrieved December 5, 2013.
  21. ^ "Williams Institute" (PDF). 3Williams Institute. 2009. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  22. ^ "Executive Order No. JBE 2016 - 11" (PDF). Governor of Louisiana. 13 April 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 April 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  23. ^ "John Bel Edwards will issue executive order protecting LGBT state employees". December 1, 2015.
  24. ^ Appeals court upholds ruling that Gov. Edwards overstepped with LGBT rights order
  25. ^ Louisiana Supreme Court Kills Order Protecting LGBT State Employees
  26. ^ "Gov. Jindal Issues Order On Religious Freedom And Same-Sex Marriage". Buzzfeed. May 20, 2015.
  27. ^ "LGBT anti-discrimination employment bill advances in Senate". The Olympian. April 28, 2016.
  28. ^ "Cities and Counties with Non-Discrimination Ordinances that Include Gender Identity". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  29. ^ McGaughy, Lauren (December 10, 2013). "Shreveport becomes second city in Louisiana after New Orleans to pass non-discrimination ordinance". The Times Picayune. Retrieved December 11, 2013.
  30. ^ 2014 MEI report
  31. ^ Tully, Carol T. "Serving Diverse Constituencies: Applying the Ecological Perspectives". Accessed October 28, 2013.
  32. ^ "Hate Crimes Bill Out Of Committee With 'Sexual Orientation' Intact," May 1997, Ambush Magazine, Accessed December 23, 2013.
  33. ^ Louisiana, National Center for Transgender Equality
  34. ^ HB27
  35. ^ Same-sex partners treated same as heterosexuals under Louisiana domestic violence bill
  36. ^ Johnson, Chris (October 31, 2013). "Hagel to direct nat'l guards to offer same-sex benefits". Washington Blade. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  37. ^ Johnson, Chris (December 3, 2013). "Louisiana Nat'l Guard latest to process same-sex benefits". Washington Blade. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  38. ^ PRRI: American Values Atlas 2017

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