Update: 8:20 p.m. CDT
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana lawmakers on Tuesday shelved a divisive religious objections bill pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal that has thrust the state into the national debate about where religious freedoms end and the rights of same-sex couples begin.
But the Republican governor, who is courting Christian conservatives for a likely presidential bid, quickly fought back against the defeat, seeking to enact the bill’s provisions without legislative support.
Both Republicans and Democrats on a House legal committee voted 10-2 for a procedural move designed to kill the proposal, ending weeks of controversy about the bill and handing Jindal a significant defeat for his legislative agenda.
Hours after the bill was rejected, Jindal issued an executive order aimed at doing the same thing as the bill, only on a smaller scale limited to the executive branch.
“What we are seeing today in America is an all-out assault on religious liberty,” said Jindal, who called the executive order the “next best thing” to signing the bill.
The order would be effective several months beyond his administration’s end unless Louisiana’s next governor rescinds it, Jindal said.
Stephen Perry, a vocal critic of the bill who heads up the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, dismissed Jindal’s order as “largely a political statement” that “will have very little practical impact.”
Perry, a former chief of staff to one of the state’s previous Republican governors, said case law and even the state constitution limit the governor’s ability to rule by fiat.
“No Executive Order of a governor may create substantive law, even in an emergency situation,” he said in a statement.
Article continues belowMeanwhile, Rep. Mike Johnson, the lawmaker who sponsored the proposal, said he would push for another hearing this legislative session.
“We don’t throw in the towel. We always stand for freedom,” said the Bossier City Republican. “We’re entering a new era in America where changing ideas about the institution of marriage conflict with the old ideas about religious freedom.”
Louisiana’s constitution bans same-sex marriage, and there are no statewide discrimination protections for gays and lesbians. But Johnson proposed the bill because he predicts a U.S. Supreme Court ruling expected in June will strike down gay marriage bans across the country.