Our Views: The value of tolerance

No one should be surprised at the breadth of support for anti-discrimination laws involving gay workers. Louisiana has been behind the times, and legislators — and some elements in the business community — have been way behind the people, we think, for a long time.

A new poll by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab included three questions on gay protections. They were requested by two groups supporting gay rights, Equality Louisiana and Louisiana Progress. But the questions were all fair ones, and involved the sorts of basic human rights that are widely protected in states and cities across America — job security, housing, bullying in schools.

About 90 percent of respondents, for example, said no one should be fired because they are gay or transgender, the poll found.

“The near-universal support” was across traditional dividing lines, Republicans and Democrats, young people and old, north and south Louisiana, said Matthew Patterson of Equality Louisiana.

We have long supported bills in the Legislature that would have expanded the existing job protections to gay and lesbian workers. It requires no elevated sense of fairness to conclude that people should not be fired from their jobs because of their private lives.

Unfortunately, the bills have mostly been bottled up in committee, in part because the business community’s lobbyists feared more workplace litigation. After many years of this protection in New Orleans, we feel that fears of a flood of litigation are demonstrably wrong.

Instead, we see workplace protection for gays as a positive economic benefit. There should be laws that demonstrate welcome to the talented outsiders who can fuel our growing technology sector.

It should not be surprising that Shreveport’s city council, by a 6-1 vote, recently adopted an anti-discrimination ordinance. Shreveport is home to a growing economic sector, movies and digital technology. Business leaders backed the ordinance for hard-headed business reasons.

Many Louisiana businesses are recruiting technology workers. The Shreveport ordinance can be a model for Baton Rouge, Lafayette and elsewhere. A state law would be even better, and we hope that the business community thinks deeply about this opportunity.