When Louisiana state lawmakers were considering the so-called “Marriage and Conscience Act,” a bill that would have provided “religious liberty” protections for anybody who discriminates against same-sex couples, they didn’t see the same kind of national backlash as Indiana did when it considered a similar pro-discrimination bill earlier this year. But one company, IBM, made it clear that it opposed the bill. Though the legislation failed last month, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who is expected to announce his candidacy for president this week, implemented the reforms through executive order instead. Now, IBM is firing back.
For months, a ribbon-cutting had been scheduled for Monday, June 22, to open IBM’s new National Service Center in Baton Rouge. It would have featured many city leaders, including Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District. There was a rumor when Jindal issued his executive order that IBM might cancel the event in protest, and this week, the company quietly took it off the schedule. If there is be any event celebrating the opening of the new center, which will bring 800 tech jobs to the state and is already stimulating downtown business with its current 200 employees, it won’t be until the fall.
IBM warned Jindal in an April letter that “a bill that legally protects discrimination based on same-sex marriage status will create a hostile environment for our current and prospective employees, and is antithetical to our company’s values. IBM will find it much harder to attract talent to Louisiana if this bill is passed and enacted into law.”
Jindal had made the legislation one of his top priorities of the session, and his office defended the executive order by claiming, “It just means if an entity acts in accordance with a religious belief in traditional marriage, then the state can’t take away its license to operate.”