- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - More than 30 state lawmakers Friday asked Louisiana’s attorney general for an opinion on whether an April anti-discrimination order issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards is constitutional.

Edwards’ order bans discrimination in state government based on sexual orientation and gender identity. State contracts will be required to include a similar provision, except those contractors that are religious organizations.

Thirty-two Republican House members sent a letter to GOP Attorney General Jeff Landry asking for the legal opinion, saying the Democratic governor’s order “raises troubling legal and practical questions.”

Edwards and Landry have clashed over several issues since both took office in January. An attorney general’s opinion does not carry the force of law. But it could be used to lay the groundwork for a lawsuit.

In the opinion request, the GOP lawmakers cited an Obama administration directive issued Friday telling public schools they must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity. The lawmakers also asked Landry whether Louisiana’s school districts must comply with the directive.

But most of the dozen questions posed to Landry deal with Edwards’ order issued last month, seeking to tie it to the Obama administration directive.

“We are already receiving calls and emails from many school officials, parents, business owners and other constituents who are deeply concerned about the implications and effects of these unprecedented orders,” Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, the lawmaker who spearheaded the letter and an attorney running for Congress, said in a statement.

Edwards’ anti-discrimination order is similar to orders enacted by two former Louisiana Democratic governors - but he added language protecting against discrimination based on “gender identity,” a provision that protects transgender people.

At the time he issued it, the governor said he was respecting religious beliefs but also signaling “Louisiana is a state that is respective and inclusive of everyone around us.”

Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo released a draft of the opinion request that had been circulated among lawmakers - and obtained by the governor’s office - that indicated Johnson had spoken to Landry about the letter before sending it.

In a statement, Carbo said since it was “clear that the Attorney General and Rep. Johnson discussed the contents of the letter and the opinion prior to issuing the request, we fully expect it to reinforce the views expressed in the letter.”

Landry’s office wouldn’t comment on the pending request.


Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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