Louisiana lawmakers decided today that the “religious freedom” law that Governor Bobby Jindal made a priority for this legislative session was a bad idea, and they shelved HB 707 until further notice. This bill, if passed into law, would have put Louisiana under the same scrutiny Indiana and Arkansas received recently with their own “religious freedom” laws that were only revised after many companies threatened to boycott those states. During the same media frenzy, some individuals became conservative celebrities for stating they would refuse to provide service to members of the LGBT community, even though lawmakers like Mike Pence stated that wasn’t the intention of the legislation.
For some reason, Louisiana saw the fiasco that Indiana and Arkansas ended up in and instead of avoiding it like the plague, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City) decided to get in on the action. Passing a bill like HB 707 would have been a big victory for Bobby Jindal to take to the conservative religious voters in early primary states, and the furor over this bill also allowed Rep. Mike Johnson to slide HB 771 in under the radar for a period of time. HB 771, as written, could open up the door for tax-funded religious theme parks like Ken Ham’s Creationism museum in Kentucky.
Fortunately, Louisiana’s House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure decided that the bill was a bad idea and voted 10-2 to delay voting on it, which for all intents and purposes killed it.
Equality Louisiana sent us the following statement:
Today, the House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure finally took up the informally dubbed “religious freedom” bill by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City), and the bill was effectively killed through a bipartisan vote of 10-2.
Since the bill was first filed on April 3, Good Friday, HB 707, the “Marriage and Conscience Act,” has been the subject of national attention.
Bolstered by the full support of Gov. Bobby Jindal, one of the many 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls, the bill has drawn the criticisms of countless advocacy groups, businesses, faith leaders and public figures. Following on the heels of the passage of similar bills in Indiana and Arkansas, it is no wonder that all eyes have turned towards Louisiana awaiting a decision on HB 707 from the state legislature.
Our legislators decided that Louisiana would not be the next Indiana and voted to return HB 707 to the calendar, effectively killing the bill.
Among the testimony against the bill was Michael Hecht, president and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc.
“Over the past eight years, Louisiana has enjoyed unprecedented economic renaissance,” said Hecht. “We are beginning to convince the world that Louisiana is a great place for business. HB 707 threatens the pillars of economic development. It threatens our business conditions and will make it harder to recruit workers to Louisiana.”
Louisiana lawmakers had the sense to kill this bill, but Governor Bobby Jindal has decided to double down on stupid and issue an executive order which would drag Louisiana into the national media spotlight, and earn him brownie points with the religious right ahead of his expected presidential run.
In fact, his announcement of an executive order coincides with an ad that The American Future Project will be running in Iowa which casts Bobby Jindal as a champion of “religious freedom.” Here’s Bobby Jindal’s statement:
“We are disappointed by the committee’s action to return the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act to the calendar. 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.
“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.” (Source)
Just when we were breathing a sigh of relief that we weren’t going to be the laughingstock of the country, Bobby Jindal has other plans for us. Good job, Louisiana voters.
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