Hours after a committee in the Louisiana Legislature effectively voted down a bill that would explicitly protect people and businesses that do not want to participate in same-sex marriage, Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order on Tuesday to accomplish much of what the bill had set out to do.
“We don’t support discrimination in Louisiana and we do support religious liberty,” the governor said in a statement. “These two values can be upheld at the same time.”
Critics, including liberals and even some conservatives, as well influential business leaders, were sharply critical of the governor’s position, dismissing it as an attempt to court conservatives nationally in advance of his likely presidential run.
“It’s a cynical attempt to deflect from the failures of what should be the top legislative priority, what we’re dealing with every day, which is a broken state budget,” State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, a Democrat, said in a speech on the floor Tuesday afternoon. She noted that Mr. Jindal has been appearing in an ad in Iowa in which he discusses his views on religious liberty. The governor announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a 2016 presidential run earlier in the week.
The Legislature’s bill, the Marriage and Conscience Protection Act, would prevent the state “from taking any adverse action against a person on the basis that such person acted in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction about marriage.” It was sponsored by Mike Johnson, a freshman representative.
Under the law, state agencies could not deny charitable tax status, licenses or other benefits to entities that refuse on religious grounds to participate in same sex-marriage. It is more targeted — specifically focusing on same-sex marriage — than laws cast as protecting religion that have led to uproars in states such as Indiana and Arkansas. Louisiana already has such an act.
After discussing the bill and hearing from supporters and opponents earlier on Tuesday, the House Civil Law and Procedure committee voted 10 to 2 across party lines to return it to the calendar, more or less killing it for the current session. Legislators in Texas failed to act on a similar bill last week, reflecting the degree to which business interests have come to see the bills as projecting an image of intolerance that is bad for a state’s business climate. That is a particular issue with the tourism industry in Louisiana.
Mr. Jindal’s order, which went into effect immediately and will remain in effect until 60 days after the next legislative session, was issued shortly after the legislators shelved the measure.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Campbell Robertson