BATON ROUGE - The state Senate has temporarily shelved a controversial bill by Sen. A.G. Crowe which critics said would allow state contractors and possibly even charter schools to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
The Senate debated SB 217 for about an hour Tuesday evening before returning the bill to the calendar, which defers but does not kill it completely.
The bill would bar state agencies from protecting classes of people who are not already protected under state law. Current state law bars discrimination against persons based on six factors — race, religion, national ancestry, age, sex or disability. If Crowe’s bill passes, no other classes of persons, including gays or lesbians, could be protected.
According to Eyewitness News and Gambit political analyst Clancy DuBos, Gov. Bobby Jindal, who had been mostly mum on the issue up until Tuesday’s vote, sent a note to senators asking them to support Crowe’s bill.
“Please support SB 217,” the letter read. “This bill provides relative to discrimination regarding certain public contracts including the limitation of categories for nondiscrimination purposes.”
DuBos, who in his WWL-TV commentary had called on Jindal to take a stand against the bill, said the Senate’s decision represented a rare defeat for the governor.
“Returning the bill to the calendar marks one of the few times this session that Jindal did not get his way with lawmakers,” DuBos said.
Crowe had argued that the bill has been mischaracterized by its opponents. During Tuesday’s debate, he even agreed to amend the bill to bar public and charter school discrimination.
He still can revive the bill during the remainder of the legislative session.