Picture this: you wake up the morning after the most exciting week of your life. Last weekend, you married the love of your life, and today, you’re headed back to work after your fabulous honeymoon.
You head into the office, excited to share honeymoon stories with friends. Your boss calls you into the office, you figure to share congratulations, and you excitedly walk in and take a seat. Quickly, however, the conversation takes a darker turn, with your boss telling you that, after your recent nuptials, you’re not “the kind of person for this company,” so pack up.
Seem far-fetched? Well, for the thousands of LGBT folks living here in Baton Rouge, it’s all too real. In 2019, we have zero protections in jobs or housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity, so this story is an anxiety that is all too real for us.
I moved to Baton Rouge in 2009 to teach, and quickly fell in love with a city that has much to offer. Rich cultural traditions, and an abundance of people who’ve never met a stranger make this a special place to live. But from day one, I had to wonder about how to navigate the professional tension surrounding my identity as a gay man.
Now, 10 years later, I am blessed to work for an employer that goes above and beyond the law to include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy. Unfortunately, however, employers like mine remain the exception, rather than the rule. It’s high time for us to join Shreveport and New Orleans, who have already put in place laws and commissions to ensure equality for ALL citizens.
Enacting this legislation would not only bring us in line with other Louisiana cities, but would greatly increase our economic competitiveness. Recently, Amazon went on the search for a location for a new location, dubbed “HQ2.” Baton Rouge could never have been in the running, because Amazon laid out LGBT legal protection as one of its key considerations.
This legislation will also bring us in line with other growing economies across the South, cities that we have fallen behind. In its 2018 listing of Best-Performing Cities, the Milken Institute identified the top 25 American cities. One thing every single city (including 9 Southern ones) has in common? Protections for LGBT people. Where did Baton Rouge place on that list? 145th among large cities, down 35 places from 2017.
The everyday people of our city and parish, including straight folks, agree this is important. I’ve recently been polling voters at the door, and they agreed that this is an important priority for our city, with 1 in 5 voters listing it as their top priority. Our city is stronger when everyone feels welcome and included.
So here’s the thing: we have an ordinance drafted that would bring Baton Rouge in line with other cities. It establishes the important things an ordinance like this should have: the illegality of discrimination, and a commission to enforce the ordinance within parish limits. As a candidate for Metro Council, District 8, I have explicitly committed to supporting this ordinance as written. A vote for this ordinance from your councilperson is a vote for equality. Let’s hope our Metro Council does the right thing. Our city’s future depends on it.
Brendan Csaposs is a local educator and community organizer who has recently announced that he will be running as a District 8 candidate for the East Baton Rouge Metro Council. beBATONROUGE is a media platform that believes in the freedom of expression and does not endorse political candidates.