One prominent voice is opposition to the directive is New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who signed his own executive order on Friday intending to reaffirm the city’s non-discrimination ordinance prohibiting anti-LGBT bias in employment, housing and public accommodations.
“With this executive order, I am issuing a clarifying call to the nation that New Orleans is an accepting, inviting city that thrives on its diversity and welcomes people from all walks of life with open arms,” Landrieu said in a statement. “In New Orleans, we believe religious liberty and freedoms should be protected and discrimination prohibited, and we have passed our own laws to reflect that principle. This executive order is an important, symbolic affirmation that discrimination in any form will not be tolerated in New Orleans – and it should not be tolerated anywhere in Louisiana.”
According to a statement from the mayor’s office, Landrieu’s order is intended to address anticipated backlash to Jindal’s order that could adversely impact the state’s and city’s capacity to attract jobs, large conventions and other major events, including the Super Bowl.
On Tuesday, Jindal signed the religious executive executive order after the House Committee on Civil Law & Procedure voted down a religious freedom bill by a bipartisan vote of 10-2. The legislation, House Bill 707, was known the “Marriage and Conscience Act.”
The measure was along the lines of the controversial religious freedom law signed earlier this year by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, which caused a national media firestorm forcing him to sign a fix into law. Jindal made religious freedom legislation in his state a legislative priority during his “State of the State” address last month.
Jindal, who’s considered a potential Republican presidential candidate, said in a statement he signed the order because “the state should not be able to take adverse action against a person for their belief in traditional marriage.” The term “traditional marriage” is code for social conservatives to mean opposition to same-sex marriage.
“That’s why I’m issuing an executive order to prevent the state from discriminating against people, charities and family-owned businesses with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Jindal said. “We don’t support discrimination in Louisiana and we do support religious liberty. These two values can be upheld at the same time.”
The executive order, No. BJ 2014–8, changes the definition of “person” in the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which Jindal signed into law in 2010, to align with the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2014 Hobby Lobby case. Under the executive order, all departments, commissions, boards, agencies and political subdivisions of the state are directed to define “person” as individuals, non-profit or for-profit corporations.
Further, the executive order prohibits state government retaliation against a person for acting on the basis of a religious belief that marriage should be limited to one man, one woman.
Actions the government is prohibited from taking are 1) denying or revoking tax exemption from a person acting against same-sex marriage based on a religious belief; 2) disallowing a deduction for state tax purposes of any charitable contribution made to or by such person; 3) excluding such person from receiving any state grant, contract, cooperative agreement, loan, professional license, certification, accreditation, employment, or other similar status; 4) withholding from such person a benefit under a state program; or 5) denying the accreditation, licensing, or certification of any such person for the purposes of state law.
State Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City), who introduced House Bill 707, praised Jindal in a statement for taking action after the legislature rejected his measure.
“I applaud Gov. Jindal for this executive order,” Johnson said. “This executive order will go a long way to preserve the most fundamental freedom of all Louisianians which is our religious liberty. As was just mentioned a few weeks ago in oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court, it is incumbent upon every state to address this important issue as soon as possible. This is a good resolution for our state for now and we intend to bring this legislation again at the earliest opportunity.”
Louisiana enacted a state constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage in 2004, but that measure could be struck down as unconstitutional if the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide as a result of pending litigation before the court.
One of the states that could act against Louisiana over Jindal’s executive order is New York, where lawmakers are calling on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign an executive order barring state-sponsored travel to Louisiana.
Such a move would be similar to the executive order that Cuomo signed barring state-sponsored travel to Indiana after Pence signed a religious freedom bill into law. Cuomo rescinded the order after Pence signed the fix to clarify the law doesn’t enable anti-LGBT discrimination.
Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan), a gay lawmaker in the New York Assembly, is among those calling on Cuomo to issue a second executive order barring state-sponsored travel to Louisiana similar.
“I ask that you take this step again and ban non-essential state travel to Louisiana,” O’Donnell said. “Our state’s employees should not be put in a situation where they can be legally discriminated against or made to feel unsafe, and our state must not support Gov. Jindal’s campaign against LGBT individuals. We must move our business to places that treat their citizens equally and fairly.”
The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment on whether the governor would sign the order.
Jindal is also facing criticism within his from State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-Baton Rouge), who took to the Senate floor this week to express consternation with the governor over his executive order.
“This action is going to be implemented, which is a complete disservice and disrespect to both bodies and it will severely damage our competitiveness, but yet it’s done anyway,” Peterson said. “He doesn’t care about Louisiana’s economy, nor does he care about the people that we represent.”
According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, the non-discrimination ordinance in New Orleans would trump the executive order in any lawsuit alleging anti-LGBT bias in the city.
Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, criticized the executive order in a statement and questioned its legality.
“Far from protecting free practice of religion, the Marriage & Conscience Act instead promotes a particular religious belief ahead of all others, at the expense of the rights of the Louisiana people,” Esman said. “This desperate measure is Gov. Jindal’s way of imposing his religious beliefs on the state of Louisiana. Of questionable legality, it sends a message of divisiveness and bigotry, while doing nothing to protect religious freedom of any kind.”