(Reuters) - A Louisiana judge on Wednesday threw out an order from the state's Democratic governor aimed at protecting the rights of gay and transgender people, ruling that the governor had overstepped his authority.
In addition to protecting LGBT rights, the executive order from Governor John Bel Edwards protected state employees against discrimination based on race, religion, disability and age. It banned state agencies from discrimination, while offering an exemption for churches and religious organizations.
The "Executive Order is a violation of the Louisiana Constitution's separation of powers doctrine and an unlawful usurp of the constitutional authority vested only in the legislative branch of government," Judge Todd Hernandez, of the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rogue Parish, said in his ruling.
The order had been challenged by the state's attorney general, Jeff Landry, a Republican who has described himself as a "campaigner for conservative family values."
In a statement, Landry applauded the judge's decision and said his objections concerned what he saw as the governor operating outside of his legal mandate.
Edwards said he was disappointed in the ruling and planned an appeal.
"With great respect for the role of the Louisiana legislature, we continue to believe that discrimination is not a Louisiana value and that we are best served as a state when employment decisions are based solely on an individual’s qualifications and job performance," he said in a statement.
Laws curtailing LGBT rights have been pushed in a few socially conservative states, sparking criticism from corporate, entertainment and sports leaders that they are discriminatory. The most contentious has been a North Carolina law that bars transgender people from using public bathrooms that do not match the sex on their birth certificates.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Additional reportting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida; Editing by Tom Brown and Leslie Adler)