A Republican critic of President Obama’s executive orders will issue an executive order of his own that some say will allow Louisiana businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
On Tuesday, to the dismay of Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), Louisiana’s proposed Marriage and Conscience Act failed in the state’s house. The legislation, which has been compared to “religious freedom restoration acts” (RFRA) in Arkansas and Indiana, would have prohibited “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.” Thus, a pizza shop that said it would not cater a gay wedding — as happened in Indiana — might not be penalized.
But after the bill failed, Jindal stepped into the breach.
“We are disappointed by the committee’s action to return the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act to the calendar,” Jindal said in a statement, as the Times-Picayune reported. “We will be issuing an Executive Order shortly that will … prevent the state from discriminating against persons or entities with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
Jindal then issued the order, which is here.
In the past, Jindal has criticized the White House’s executive orders on immigration as end-runs around the legislative branch.
“Granting amnesty by executive order is wrong,” Jindal wrote in a statement last year. “It will incentivize more of this illegal immigration. If the President wants to make the case that the law should be changed, he should go make the case to Congress and our people. This is an arrogant, cynical political move by the President, and it’s why so many Americans no longer trust this President to solve the problems we face.”
Jindal has previously issued executive orders, including one to monitor those traveling to countries affected by Ebola.
Louisiana has a ban on same-sex marriage that could fall if the U.S. Supreme Court rules such prohibitions unconstitutional. Jindal’s order, which he called the “next best thing” to passing the marriage legislation, was praised by supporters of the failed bill.
“We don’t throw in the towel,” said state Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City), who sponsored the bill, as the Associated Press reported. “We always stand for freedom. … We’re entering a new era in America where changing ideas about the institution of marriage conflict with the old ideas about religious freedom.”
But the bill’s detractors said the legislation — and the order — will give businesses the right to discriminate against same-sex couples.
“This bill is worse than any RFRA in that it explicitly allows discrimination based on an individual’s religious beliefs about marriage,” Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow said of the bill last month. “Nobody gets to go into court for a balancing test, there’s no interpretation by a state judicial system. It flat out gives individuals a right to discriminate, period.”
Jindal denied the legislation was discriminatory.
“We don’t support discrimination in Louisiana and we do support religious liberty,” he said, as Politico reported. “These two values can be upheld at the same time.”
The order states: “….it is of preeminent importance that government take no adverse action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that such person acts in accordance with his religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, but that this principle not be construed to authorize any act of discrimination.”
The business community also worried about the effect of the order on the state’s economy. Indiana was faced with boycotts before it amended its RFRA earlier this year.
New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau chief executive Stephen Perry called the bill “a radioactive, poisonous message,” saying it could cost the state $65 million per year. But Jindal, in New York Times op-ed last month, said money doesn’t matter.
“As the fight for religious liberty moves to Louisiana, I have a clear message for any corporation that contemplates bullying our state: Save your breath,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Jindal — who launched a presidential exploratory committee this week — has been criticized for pandering to conservatives in the run-up to the 2016 election.
“His ambition for even higher office has led him to pretend that along with politicians, science teachers should be preachers, too,” Slate wrote of Jindal’s support for legislation that allowed creationism to be taught in schools.
“Gov. Jindal’s stunt today once again underlines his disregard for Louisiana families, his disdain for the state legislature and his apparent contempt for the state’s tourism industry — the only segment of our economy his failed policies haven’t crippled,” the Louisiana Democratic Party’s executive director Stephen Handwerk said in a statement. “Louisiana taxpayers and businesses are once again being forced to foot the bill for Jindal’s vanity. It’s foolishness our families cannot afford.”