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'Conscience' and Controversy: Jindal Reviews Week One

Gov. Bobby Jindal called members of the capitol press corps into his office Thursday, sitting down with them to give his impressions of the first week of the session. He spent much of the time speaking of his support for Rep. Mike Johnson’s HB 707.

“This bill simply prevents the state from discriminating against Christians and others with traditional views of marriage,” Jindal stated. “It’s hard for me to see why anybody would be opposed to that.”

The governor has adopted the “Marriage and Conscience Act,” as HB 707 has been titled, as one of his pet projects for the legislative session. Jindal, who announced the bill as part of “his” legislative package during the State of the State speech Monday, says there’s a lot of misinformation about the purpose of the bill.

“This is a prohibition on the state taking action against somebody for their beliefs,” the governor maintains.

The bill would prohibit the state from penalizing anyone who acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction about marriage. A 2004 amendment to Louisiana’s constitution defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.

“There is a case before the United States Supreme Court that could impact Louisiana’s law,” Jindal explains, while admitting HB 707 is a preemptive measure to avoid problems that have cropped up elsewhere over refusals to condone or participate in same-sex weddings.

“There are examples in western states. These involve bakers; these involve florists; these involve folks that were forced by their states to choose between paying heavy fines or losing their business licenses,” Jindal explains.

But those other states have laws which prohibit discrimination due to sexual orientation. Louisiana does not.

The bill is already igniting controversy. New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Stephen Perry, along with Mayor Mitch Landrieu, has voiced opposition to it. IBM, which is building a new facility in downtown Baton Rouge, sent Jindal, Senate President John Alario, and House Speaker Chuck Kleckley letters this week, stating passage of the law would create “a hostile environment” for their current and future employees. Alario has said he “has concerns” about the bill.

And it was the only house bill not referred to committee on the first day of the session. That changed the second day, after an attempt to open floor discussion of the bill via the addition of amendments. The unusual procedural move sparked so much protest that Johnson withdrew his amendments, and the bill was referred to the Civil Law Committee.

“I’m glad it was referred to committee,” Jindal said, adding, “I think this bill will get the support it needs to get out of committee and pass on the floor.”