Opinion: Gay Rights Ordinance Has Constitutional Problems

Opinion: Gay Rights Ordinance Has Constitutional Problems

The Metro Council considered but did not vote on a proposed Gay Rights Ordinance at its meeting of Wednesday, July 23.  The proposed is likely to return to the Council’s agenda on Wednesday, Aug. 14.

The ordinance purports to codify a new kind of obligation among persons — namely, the obligation not to discriminate based on sexual orientation — and to have that obligation enforceable in the District Court.

There’s a serious constitutional problem with that. The Louisiana constitution contemplates that laws will be uniform statewide when it comes to private and civil relationships. The constitution reads as follows:

Louisiana Constitution.  Article VI §9. Limitations of Local Governmental Subdivisions — No local governmental subdivision shall (1) define and provide for the punishment of a felony; or (2) except as provided by law, enact an ordinance governing private or civil relationships.

Note that local ordinances cannot govern “private or civil relationships.” A city council cannot enact such an ordinance, much less have it enforced through the District Courts. Under Louisiana law, such laws are handled uniformly statewide in the Civil Code and the Louisiana Revised Statutes.
However, the proposed ordinance purports to change citizens’ private and civil relationships and create a cause of action in District Court:

§9:1303 Violations; remedies; and definitions.  (A) Any violation of the provisions of this chapter shall give rise to a civil cause of action, which shall be brought in the district court of East Baton Rouge Parish, seeking damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, and court costs.

Under the Louisiana Constitution, the legislature has authority over private and civil relationships, and the Metro Council has no power to enact an ordinance governing them. But, once again, we see some on the Metro Council lawlessly doing what they choose without regard to the state constitution or state law.

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