Democratic Governor of Louisiana Rescinds Predecessor’s Religious Liberty Order

Edwards-compressedBATON ROUGE, La. — As promised, the Democratic governor of Louisiana has vetoed an executive order issued by former Gov. Bobby Jindal that provided religious liberty protections to objectors of same-sex “marriage.”

“I believe in giving every Louisianan the opportunity to be successful and to thrive in our state. Our goal is to promote the opportunities we have right here in Louisiana,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Roman Catholic, in a statement on Wednesday. “While this executive order respects the religious beliefs of our people, it also signals to the rest of the country that discrimination is not a Louisiana value, but rather, that Louisiana is a state that is respectful and inclusive of everyone around us.”

Jindal, also a Roman Catholic, had issued an order last May after legislators failed to pass a religious freedom bill, the “Marriage and Conscience Act,” which was struck down in a House committee 10-2.

“[I]t is of preeminent importance that government take no adverse action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that such person acts in accordance with his religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, but that this principle not be construed to authorize any act of discrimination,” it read in part.

Jindal also explained in a statement that the executive order would “prohibit the state from denying or revoking a tax exemption, tax deduction, contract, cooperative agreement, loan, professional license, certification, accreditation, or employment on the basis the person acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

On Wednesday, Edwards condemned Jindal’s order, stating that it “was meant to serve a narrow political agenda.”

“It does nothing but divide our state and force the business community, from Louisiana’s smallest businesses to large corporations like IBM, to strongly oppose it,” he said. “This executive order threatens Louisiana’s business growth, and it goes against everything we stand for—unity, acceptance, and opportunity for all.”

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Edwards was referring to businesses that had expressed objections expressed over Jindal’s order, including IBM, which asserted that it would “create a hostile environment for our current and prospective employees.”

Those who support Edwards’ move likewise claim that Jindal’s religious liberty order was harmful to the economy.

“Businesses like Moonbot must do everything we can to attract top creative talent to Louisiana. The Marriage and Conscience Order sanctions unfair discrimination and prevents growth in Louisiana’s creative economy,” Lampton Enochs, CEO of Moonbot Studios, said in a statement released by Edwards’ office.

In rescinding Jindal’s order, Edwards issued his own order declaring that government officials may not act adversely in employment matters over the person’s “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” and bars those who contract with the state from doing the same. It provides an exemption for churches and faith-based organizations.

Some expressed disappointment in Edwards’ order, such as the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) in Baton Rouge.

“LFF condemns harassment and intentional discrimination, but this executive order necessarily introduces sexual politics into the workplace, a legally undefined protected category, and invites unnecessary legal claims simply on the basis of personal disagreements,” it said in an email on Wednesday.

“Ironically, while other states are seeking to protect people of faith, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards seems to be using his executive power to silence those same people of faith,” LFF stated. “The religious exemption contained in the governor’s order is extremely narrow and ignores the multitude of good people of our state who are employed by Louisiana’s largest employer, state government, but who also hold sincerely held religious beliefs with regard to sex outside of the confines of natural lifelong marriage.”

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