Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is not a fan of executive orders — except, of course, when he is issuing them himself in an effort to deprive the LGBT community of equal protection under the law.
Louisiana’s “Marriage and Conscience Act” (HB 707) found itself as dead as most of the GOP will be in the near future on Tuesday when it failed to pass committee. Jindal, however, has signed an executive order passing the bill, which explicitly discriminates against the LGBT community.
The bill was promoted by State Rep. Mike Johnson, who bemoaned the fact that Christians were punished for discriminating against the LGBT community.
If Louisiana state Rep. Mike Johnson (R) wants to convince the public that his “Marriage and Conscience Act” (HB 707) does not promote discrimination against same-sex couples, he’s chosen a funny way to go about. In a video on his new website promoting the bill, “Louisiana for Liberty,” Johnson opens by citing the examples of an Oregon bakery, a New York event venue, and a New Mexico photographer, all of whom suffered penalties under state law for “respectfully” — as Johnson describes it — refusing to serve same-sex couples.
“It’s stories like these that have compelled us to introduce the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act,” Johnson explained. “This new law, if enacted, would protect a Louisiana citizen or business from being punished by the state simply for abiding by their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage.”
Indeed, the bill heavily protects bigots from any repercussions for their actions.“This state shall not take an adverse action against a person, wholly or partially,” the bill reads, “on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”
Though the bill did not actually pass the state legislature, he has issued an executive order ensuring that hate reigns supreme in his state:
“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.”
This bill goes far beyond bigots’ favorite battlegrounds — bakeries and pizzerias. Without protections for the LGBT community, a doctor could refuse to treat an LGBT patient without fear of repercussions. If there aren’t many grocery stores around, a gay man may find life difficult if the store is owned by the wrong kind of “Christian.” This legislation even opens the door to law enforcement refusing to protect the lesbian couple down the street because their “beliefs” trump the safety of those they are sworn to protect.
Jindal may be willing to use an executive order to effectively endorse LGBT discrimination before his 2016 Presidential run, but he has certainly been critical of the President for his use of executive orders to circumvent a Congress that has repeatedly vowed to obstruct him no matter what.
“The President is lecturing us and not listening to us. He’s bypassing Congress, and ignoring the American people,” Jindal said of President Obama’s executive action on immigration last year.“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.”
“I don’t think the president should shut down the government to try to break the Constitution.” Jindal said on Meet the Press in November 2014. “The president said ‘I want to break the law.’ He said I’m going to wait until after the election. I know it’s not going to be popular to grant amnesty to million of people here illegally. We had an election. He said his policies were on the ballot. He lost in red states, purple states, blue states. The American people overwhelmingly ejecting and rejected his policies. Now he is saying, I’m going to break the law. Talk about arrogance.””
Of course, the same can be said of Jindal’s decision to bypass the state legislature to legalize discrimination against a significant portion of the population — except, in this case, that assertion would be correct.
54 percent of respondents to a February 2014 poll said that they support either marriage or civil unions for LGBT couples (though only 42 percent support same-sex marriage). Whether or not voters feel marriage is in the cards for the LGBT community, the support for recognition nevertheless exists. In other words, voters (especially voters between ages 18-29, 59 percent of whom are for same-sex marriage) already reject Jindal’s plan to take Louisiana back 100 years.
America should have already learned that “separate but equal doesn’t work,” and that legalized discrimination isn’t viable either. Perhaps the most frightening thing about this “religious freedom” legislation is that the LGBT community, like African-Americans in the “good old days,” isn’t allowed to ‘sit at the lunch counter’ if the proprietor is a Christian extremist.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.