As Louisiana Senate Bill 156 restricting transgender women from playing on women's sports teams passes 29-6 in the Senate, transgender Louisianians are facing another battle for their rights in the state.
Four pieces of social legislation introduced in the LA House and Senate could have economic ramifications for local businesses. Janice Delerno, innkeeper at the Stockade Bed & Breakfast, and Jean Paul Guillory, distiller at Three Roll Estate, thrive on the tourism industry.
Each business took a direct hit from the pandemic in 2020.
“Our typical occupancy rate in the year would be somewhere in the 68 percentile, and it dropped down to below 20 percent," Delerno said.
But Delerno, Guillory and others who benefit directly from Louisiana's tourism fear another setback looms. Proposed legislation in both the Louisiana House and Senate chambers would restrict the rights of transgender minors and transgender athletes.
This type of social legislation could have negative effects on Louisiana’s economy if large events like the NCAA Men’s Final Four tournament pull out of the state.
Executive Vice President and General Counsel for New Orleans & Company Walt Leger III says this legislation could make it difficult for businesses to recover from an already difficult tourism year.
“Organizations, associations and other major players in our economy have expressed their desire to do business with cities and states that reflect policies of inclusivity,” Leger said.
In 2019, the tourism economy in Louisiana was accountable for $10.5 billion in direct spending, and Leger says if this legislation passes it could affect everyone in the state.
“If you take away the dollar spent by visitors on travel and travel related expenses, it would mean every family in Louisiana would need to pay several thousand dollars more a year in taxes to make up that gap,” Leger said.
Delerno, who has been in the tourism industry for nearly 30 years, says it’s impossible for legislators to not see the effects this legislation could have on constituents.
“It’s not political," Delerno said. "It’s about tourism and having fun and sharing this state with the rest of the world.”
At Three Roll Estate, their whole business is dedicated to showcasing Louisiana’s homegrown sugar cane in their specialty drinks. If tourists aren’t coming to the state, Guillory believes it would be devastating for business.
“I think it would be detrimental to block any peoples from trying to live freely," Guillory said. "I think especially for the tourism business in Baton Rouge and Louisiana, we need as much inclusivity and as much people as we can get."
Louisiana has benefitted from a time when other states were not seen as inclusive. In 2017, the NBA all-star game was relocated to New Orleans due to discriminatory legislation passed in Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte was estimated to lose $100 million from the relocation.
"The message that the Louisiana legislature sent back then was, ‘we are a welcoming place. Hospitality is at the core of who we are as people in Louisiana," Leger said.
Leger says these bills could have destabilizing effects in today’s market and is hopeful the legislature will push forward on other issues that will expand the economic pie in the state.
“No matter what your position is on it, I think the prudent thing for all of us to do is look to the marketplace to drive our business decisions,” Leger said.
Governor Edwards has said he would not support any discriminatory legislation. House Bill 542 also aimed to bar transgender women from competing in women's sports but was rejected by the House Education Committee. Senate Bill 156 is now headed to the House for approval.