Government regulatory boards are commonplace for countless professions throughout the country. Boards governing healthcare professions are among the most notable, as they’re tasked with protecting citizens’ health and safety.
All states and several U.S. territories established boards to regulate the practice of medicine. In Louisiana, medical practitioners fall under the purview of the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners. Legislatively created in 1894, the board’s ten members—nine physicians and a citizen member—must meet certain standards of residency, licensing, experience, and non-criminality.
Another requirement, however, has nothing to do with medicine and everything to do with racial balancing: Four of the board’s slots have racial mandates.
State law requires Louisiana’s governor to appoint all medical board members, and in 2018, state lawmakers added the racial quota to the board’s makeup. Since then, the governor has been forced to consider race when making medical board appointments and deny opportunities for some qualified physicians in Louisiana to competently serve the public, based on no other reason than their race.
This includes Louisiana physicians and citizen members of Do No Harm, a nonprofit organization of over 6,000 physicians, healthcare professionals, medical students, patients, and policymakers committed to ensuring equality in healthcare. They would like to be considered for open board seats, and they meet all of the bona fide eligibility qualifications.
It’s wrong for the government to make assumptions about people’s experiences and qualifications based on arbitrary and offensive assumptions about race. Moreover, it’s unconstitutional.
No government commission or committee should use an individual’s race or ethnicity to determine who gets the opportunity to serve their public. Treating people according to immutable characteristics like race violates the very notion of equality before the law. People should be treated as individuals, not as members of a group they did not choose.
Represented by Pacific Legal Foundation at no charge, Do No Harm is fighting back. Its federal lawsuit challenges the Louisiana medical board’s race-based membership quota as violating the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. Its victory would ensure that all candidates can compete equally to serve on the medical board, regardless of race.
Louisiana’s medical board isn’t a one-off either. The state makes race-based appointments when filling vacancies on nine other public boards and commissions, including Barber and Optometry Examiners, as well as Embalmers and Funeral Directors.
Nor is Louisiana the only state that uses immutable characteristics to fill public board vacancies and limit opportunities for individuals to serve the public.
A report released by PLF, Public Service Denied, found instances in 25 states where such unconstitutional discrimination has been codified. Without action, the problem is likely to worsen. PLF is working to defeat race and sex board quotas in Louisiana and everywhere else the unconstitutional practice is allowed.