Within hours after Louisiana lawmakers
shelved a controversial “religious freedom” bill, Governor Bobby
Jindal, a possible candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential
nomination, responded by issuing an executive order.
The proposed legislation, known as the
Marriage Conscience Act, sought to prohibit the government from
taking adverse action against a person for expressing a religious
belief or moral conviction about marriage. It died with a bipartisan
10-2 vote in a House committee on Tuesday.
Almost immediately, Jindal issued a
statement in which he said that he was “disappointed by the
committee's action” and pledged to issue an executive order that
will “accomplish the intent of HB 707 to prevent the state from
discriminating against persons or entities with deeply held religious
beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
“This Executive Order will prohibit
the state from denying or revoking a tax exemption, tax deduction,
contract, cooperative agreement, loan, professional license,
certification, accreditation, or employment on the basis the person
acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage is between
one man and one woman,” Jindal said.
Jindal called the executive order the
“next best thing” to signing the Marriage Conscience Act.
“What we are seeing today in America
is an all-out assault on religious liberty,” he said.
In an op-ed published in The New
York Times, Jindal dismissed concerns IBM expressed about his
support for a “bill that legally protects discrimination based on
same-sex marriage status”
“I have a clear message for any
corporation that contemplates bullying our state: Save your breath,”
“The bill does not, as opponents
assert, create a right to discriminate against, or generally refuse
service to, gay men or lesbians. The bill does not change anything
as it relates to the law in terms of discrimination suits between
private parties. It merely makes our constitutional freedom so well
defined that no judge can miss it,” he added.
Republican governors in Indiana and
Arkansas backed down from supporting similar measures after
businesses threatened to boycott those states. Louisiana's bill,
however, went further, Doug Laycock, a law professor at the
University of Virginia and a leading religious freedom expert, told
MSNBC last month.
“This Louisiana bill really does what
people accused the Indiana law of doing,” Laycock
said. “The sponsor and the governor says it doesn't authorize
discrimination. I have no idea what that means, it pretty clearly
At Tuesday's committee hearing, Rep.
Mike Johnson, the Republican lawmaker behind the proposal, was forced
to acknowledge that the bill would allow an emergency room surgeon to
refuse to operate on a married gay person, or a teacher to refuse to
meet with a student's gay parents. In both situations, the state
would be barred from taking action.
In defending his support for such
measures during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, Jindal
warned against creating “special rights” for gays.