Report: Louisianans support anti-discrimination protections for transgender people, but not bathroom access

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A rally in Jackson Square following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.
  • A rally in Jackson Square following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

The results of a survey of more than 1,000 Louisianans illustrates the continuing, deep divide among people who believe LGBT people deserve protections from discrimination and those who do not.

The Louisiana Survey from LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication found that a majority of respondents believe transgender people deserve protections from discrimination in the workplace — but don’t believe transgender people should be able to use bathrooms according to their gender identity.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents agreed transgender people should be protected from workplace discrimination, a move supported by an executive order from Gov. John Bel Edwards which mandates that state contracts include language that prohibits discrimination against LGBT employees. That order — prompted by the state Legislature’s inability to pass similar measures to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people — was tossed out by state courts following a lawsuit from frequent Edwards opponent and Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Respondents who agreed to workplace protections for LGBT people included 83 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans.

But when asked whether transgender people should be allowed to use bathrooms according to their gender identity, respondents largely said no — only 35 percent said yes, while 56 percent said transgender people should use bathrooms according to their gender assigned at birth.

Only 33 percent of Republican respondents consider transgender people face "a lot" of discrimination, compared to 64 percent of Democrats. That discrepancy — in which respondents agree to prevent employers from firing employees because of their gender identity while also agreeing to discriminate against transgender people for using the bathroom — skews more conservative in Louisiana than the rest of the U.S.

According to the report’s citation of a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, more than half the U.S. agrees that transgender people should use the bathroom according to their gender identity. That includes 68 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of Republicans. The Louisiana survey asked the same question as Pew: “If you had to choose, which comes closer to your view: Transgender people should be required to use the public restrooms of the gender they were born into, or transgender people should be allowed to use the public restrooms of the gender with which they currently identify?”

That divide also extends to whether businesses should be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples for “religious reasons.” Seventy percent of Republicans believe businesses should be allowed to, while only 27 percent believe “businesses should be required to provide services to same-sex couples as they would to others.” The report notes that is a “mirror opposite” for Democrats — 73 percent says businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples as they would others.

In total, 49 percent of respondents believe businesses should be required to offer their services, a slight increase from the results of the same poll from 2016. Last year, the survey found only 41 percent of respondents believed people should have to provide services regardless of their beliefs on same-sex marriage.

Surveyed 1,012 people using both landline and cellphones from February 23 to March 23.

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