Jindal Makes Louisiana Ground Zero for 'Marriage and Conscience' Fight

Stephen Handwerk, the executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party, may believe Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive order on religious freedom was nothing but a political stunt, but he should not have been surprised.

If Handwerk didn’t see this coming, he needs to start reading the New York Times.

Jindal vowed in a New York Times op-ed in April he would not be scared off by the “large corporations” that had joined with “left-wing activists to bully elected officials into backing away from strong protections for religious liberty” in Indiana and Arkansas.

Turns out the Republican wasn’t bullied by the Louisiana Legislature, either. Jindal issued his executive order less than two hours after a Marriage and Conscience Act proposal was tabled by state lawmakers.

State Rep. Mike Johnson (R) said the Marriage and Conscience Act he introduced in April was intended to reinforce Louisiana’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act that was approved in 2010. He told the Times-Picayune the legislation was also intended to protect businesses that might fear the wrath of state government if they did something in support of gay marriage.

"It is a protection for all persons regardless of their religious viewpoint," he said.

Jindal’s “Marriage and Conscience” executive order is intended to accomplish what the Legislature failed to do — protect any “individual, non-profit or for-profit corporation” who declines to serve anyone involved in a same-sex marriage, if doing so would violate religious beliefs, as long as it would not seriously hurt Louisiana.

Jindal also said the order does not sanction gay discrimination in Louisiana.

Handwerk said nothing could be further from the truth and warned Jindal’s order threatens to wreck the state’s tourism industry.

“Gov. Jindal’s stunt once again underlines his disregard for Louisiana families, his disdain for the state legislature and his apparent contempt for the state’s tourism industry— the only segment of our economy his failed policies haven’t crippled,” said Handwerk. “Louisiana taxpayers and businesses are once again being forced to foot the bill for Jindal’s vanity. It’s foolishness our families cannot afford.”

Not only did Jindal release his executive order less than two hours after the Marriage and Conscience Act was tabled in downtown Baton Rouge, he let it fly two days after forming a presidential exploratory committee to examine the wisdom of running for the White House in 2016.

He said a final decision on whether to run in 2016 could be expected June 11, after the Legislature recesses for the summer.

“If I run, my candidacy will be based on the idea that the American people are ready to try a dramatically different direction. Not a course correction, but a dramatically different path,” Jindal said in the statement.

Jindal’s vow to show voters a “dramatically different path” will undoubtedly include his strong belief in traditional marriage despite polls showing that a growing percentage of Americans support legalizing gay marriage.