BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. Bobby Jindal on Thursday gave a full-throated defense of a divisive religious objections bill that critics say could sanction discrimination against same-sex couples in Louisiana
The Republican governor’s comments doubling down in support of the legislation came one day after computer giant IBM sent Jindal’s office a letter signaling “strong” opposition to the bill.
Jindal, speaking to reporters in a wide-ranging interview, attempted to flip the script on opponents by describing the bill as an anti-discrimination measure designed to protect Christians who are morally opposed to same-sex marriage in an increasingly permissive society.
“Religious liberty is not just about the ability to pray a couple of hours a week,” said Jindal, who has presidential ambitions built on an appeal to evangelical Christians and social conservatives. “Religious liberty is about being able to live your life seven days a week according to your beliefs.”
The letter from IBM – which has plans for an 800-worker facility in Baton Rouge – cuts into the business-friendly reputation Jindal has sought to cultivate and frequently touts.
“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,” wrote James M. Driesse, a senior state executive for the company. “IBM will find it much harder to attract talent to Louisiana if this bill is passed and enacted into law.”
Article continues belowAs written, the “Marriage and Conscience Act” – a cornerstone of Jindal’s legislative agenda – would prohibit the state from denying any resident or business a license, benefits or tax deductions because of actions taken “in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction” about marriage.
Jindal and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, say the measure would in no way condone discrimination against LGBT couples. But what exactly the bill would accomplish is the subject of heated debated, with critics and some legal experts arguing the bill would allow discrimination should gay marriage become legal in Louisiana.