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As written, the proposed law would prohibit the state from denying individuals, businesses and nonprofits any licenses, benefits, jobs or tax deductions because of action taken “in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction” about marriage.
Like in Indiana and Arkansas, where backlash prompted changes to similar laws, the proposal faced formidable opposition from LGBT supporters and big business. Critics said the bill would sanction discrimination against LGBT couples – though Johnson disagrees.
What the measure would do is bar the state from taking some punitive actions against a person who refused to serve someone based on a belief about same-sex marriage.
That, in effect, would allow discrimination, critics say.
Perry, the head New Orleans tourism official, called the bill “radioactive” and said it would make Louisiana “complicit in officially state-sanctioned bigotry.” Any bid to host a Super Bowl, Final Four or college football championship in New Orleans would be doomed if the measure were approved, he said.
“We’re attempting to … carve out the ability to discriminate, the ability to be bigoted,” Perry said.
Proponents of the bill have cited wedding photographers, planners and bakers as examples of people who should have legal protection if they object to serving same-sex couples.
“It would effectively prevent you from getting the death penalty as a business owner if you stood by your traditional belief in marriage,” Johnson said. “I think that’s a belief that worthy of protection.”
But in the committee hearing Johnson acknowledged that the bill would also bar the state from firing or revoking the license of an emergency room surgeon who refused to operate on someone in a same-sex marriage, or a teacher who refuses to meet with a student’s gay or lesbian parents.
“At any other time in history, the average person could live an entire life without having to publicly articulate a view on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender politics,” said Gene Mills, president of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum and a supporter of the bill. “Now we are being asked to choose sides in the culture war.”
Article continues belowThe Louisiana Democratic Party accused Jindal of being determined to “wreck” the state’s tourism industry and called the executive order a “stunt.”
“Louisiana taxpayers and businesses are once again being forced to foot the bill for Jindal’s vanity,” said Stephen Handwerk, the party’s executive director, said in a statement.
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