Louisiana’s “Marriage and Conscience Act” (HB 707), which was promoted using stories of anti-LGBT discrimination, died in committee Tuesday. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who had prioritized the legislation’s passage in his State of the State address last month, responded by promising to issue an executive order accomplishing the same effect of the legislation.
“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,” he explained. “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.”
Proponents of the bill, including sponsor Rep. Mike Johnson (R), claimed that it had nothing to do with enabling discrimination against LGBT people. Nevertheless, he specifically cited the cases of florists, bakers, and event venues that have been punished in other states for refusing to serve same-sex couples as the reason the bill was necessary. Stephen Sabludowsky of Bayou Buzz highlighted some of other examples of discrimination that the provision seems to open the door to. “A doctor working at a state institution could not be fired by the state if the doctor refused to treat a same-sex couple,” he explained, nor could the state “take action against a teacher who refused to visit with the same-sex parents of a student.”
Jindal, who just formed his 2016 presidential exploratory committee this week, will essentially be issuing a state endorsement of anti-gay discrimination. The executive order, like the legislation, could potentially override the LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination protections that exist in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Shreveport, as well as Jefferson Parish. This is not the first time Jindal has made it easier to discriminate against LGBT people; in 2008, he refused to renew an executive order that protected gay, lesbian, and bisexual employees of state agencies and contractors from discrimination. He claimed at the time that he didn’t want to “create additional special categories or special rights,” though he was actually allowing existing protections to disappear.
If Jindal follows through on issuing an executive order to compensate for the bill’s failure in the House, he will not only actually be creating “special rights,” but will also be violating his own principles regarding executive orders. Just six months ago, he criticized President Obama for issuing an executive order protecting millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. “The President is lecturing us and not listening to us. He’s bypassing Congress, and ignoring the American people,” Jindal said in a press release. “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.”