Because it couldn’t stand to be outdone by rivals Arkansas and Florida, or the once-polite state of Indiana, Louisiana has entered the religious freedom battle, coming strong with a bill that just might pass intact. Representative Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City) introduced HB 707 last week, the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act. The bill would allow private business owners the right to refuse same-sex couples service if it compromises their religious beliefs. Critics are calling this bill potentially more discriminatory than the amended versions of the Indiana and Arkansas Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA), due to the specificity of the target and the fact that it may have more popular support than bills in the aforementioned states.
Despite the firestorm that both Governors Mike Pence and Asa Hutchinson endured, and the backpedaling that led them to revise their states’ respective bills, Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal announced his full support. As a presidential hopeful with very low voter recognition, some political strategists find Jindal’s support to be a calculated risk that will give him time in the spotlight. In fact, an AP/GfK poll late last year found that 57 percent of respondents believe that wedding-related businesses should be able to refuse service, and Pew found the number to be 47 percent in a later poll. It might be a genius move in gaining the conservative Christian vote.
The bill has already succeeded in drumming up opposition. Human Rights Campaign legal director, Sarah Warbelow thinks the bill could be more harmful than the Indiana and Arkansas measures stating, “This bill is worse than any RFRA in that it explicitly allows discrimination based on an individual’s religious beliefs about marriage,” she said. “Nobody gets to go into court for a balancing test, there’s no interpretation by a state judicial system. It flat-out gives individuals a right to discriminate, period.” Other groups such as the ACLU and Louisiana Progress have also come out against the measure.
If the bill were to become law, it would especially impact wedding-related businesses such as planners or bakers. So, as my friend and colleague, Jay points out, the battle over the almighty cake continues. I don’t usually like wedding cake. I’m a big fan of chocolate, especially chocolate frosting, and wedding cakes rarely have chocolate frosting. I LOVE chocolate cake, even German chocolate cake, but I wish they would just replace the gooey coconut stuff with more chocolate frosting…or maybe some rocky road fudge. Nah, that would make it look too much like marble cake. I mean marble cake is okay, but I always think the bites with chocolate in it taste better than the bites with yellow or white cake. I turn into a nibbler. Not that I hate yellow cake, at least it is moist, but you can keep the white cake. It’s too sweet and dry for me, well, maybe with enough chocolate frosting…
Anyway, I think that’s what this Louisiana thing is about.
International Business Times – Philip Ross
KSLA.com – Kelly Colvin
Washington Post – Hunter Schwarz