Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal Reveals Religious Freedom Executive Order

May 21st 2015

Laura Donovan

After the Louisiana House failed to approve Gov. Bobby Jindal's Marriage and Conscience Act, which has drawn comparisons to Indiana's much-maligned Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Republican governor said he'd issue an executive order that some argue would enable state businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBT community under religious or moral freedom.

The presidential hopeful's proposed legislation would have barred "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."

Jindal said in a statement Tuesday that he plans to fulfill the intention behind the Marriage and Conscience Act through an executive order.

"We are disappointed by the committee's action to return the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act to the calendar," Jindal said. "We will be issuing an Executive Order shortly 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."

Though Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow called the legislation "worse than any RFRA in that it explicitly allows discrimination based on an individual’s religious beliefs about marriage," Jindal insists the bill was not discriminatory.

“We don’t support discrimination in Louisiana, and we do support religious liberty," Jindal said. "These two values can be upheld at the same time."

In a New York Times guest column published late last month, Jindal clarified that the Marriage and Conscience Act didn't give state residents the right to "discriminate, or generally refuse service to, gay men or lesbians ... [i]t merely makes our constitutional freedom so well defined that no judge can miss it."

Jindal added in his article that he's aware American perspectives have shifted on gay marriage --- for example, a new Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage --- but that he won't budge on this issue.

"[L]ike many other believers, I will not change my faith-driven view on this matter, even if it becomes a minority opinion," Jindal wrote. "A pluralistic and diverse society like ours can exist only if we all tolerate people who disagree with us. That’s why religious freedom laws matter — and why it is critical for conservatives and business leaders to unite in this debate."

Earlier this spring, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed his state's RFRA into law, prompting nationwide outrage as it seemed to allow businesses to legally refuse service to members of the LGBT community. After the backlash, which included outspoken criticism from business leaders such as Apple's Tim Cook, Indiana passed a revision to the measure that eliminated a provision in the original law which allowed businesses to use religious freedom as a defense against accusations of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

LGBT rights organization, Equality Louisiana and Louisiana Progress Action released a joint statement on Tuesday criticizing Jindal's actions as political grandstanding designed to bring attention to his upcoming campaign for president.

"Gov. Jindal is clearly trying to leave the biggest mess possible, as he readies himself to spend even less time in Louisiana and to launch his presidential campaign," the statement reads. "In the end, his extreme ideology is only making the state a worse place for those of us who actually plan to live here past his last day in office."

Jindal wrote in the aforementioned New York Times guest column that he won't be intimidated by anyone who questions his views on gay marriage and religious freedom.

"Our country was founded on the principle of religious liberty, enshrined in the Bill of Rights," Jindal wrote. "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."