When the Louisiana state legislature failed to pass the “Marriage and Conscience Act” (HB 707) earlier this year, on May 19, Governor Bobby Jindal issued an executive order that will accomplish the same goal. HB 707 provided that the state of Louisiana could take no “adverse action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that such person acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction about the institution of marriage.”
The bill defined “adverse action” as denying tax exemptions, disallowing charitable deductions, disqualifying employee benefit plans, exclusion from state licenses, loans, certifications, or withholding any state benefits, or any other kind of discrimination on the basis of the person’s belief or conviction about marriage.
The bill would have mirrored at the state level the First Amendment Defense Act (S. 1598 and H.R. 2802) which is currently pending in both houses of the U.S. Congress.
Jindal’s executive order cites the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014) as well as Louisiana law to establish that the definition of “person” includes both individuals and for-profit and non-profit corporations.
Jindal’s order indicated that the state and its agencies “shall take no adverse action” against those who have a religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman
“A. Deny or revoke an exemption from taxation pursuant to La. R.S. 47:287.501 of the person who is acting in accordance with his religious belief.
B. Disallow a deduction for state tax purposes of any charitable contribution made to or by such person.
C. Deny or exclude such person from receiving any state grant, contract, cooperative agreement, loan, professional license, certification, accreditation, employment, or other similar position or status.
D. Deny or withhold from such person any benefit under a state benefit program.
E. Deny, revoke, or suspend the accreditation, licensing, or certification of any person that would be accredited, licensed, or certified for purposes of Louisiana law but-for a determination against such person on the basis that the person acts in accordance with his own religious belief.”
The order became effective immediately. According to Jindal, the issue was not discrimination, but rather to protect the First Amendment rights of the citizens of the state.
Opponents to the order have argued that it is unenforceable under Louisiana law which prohibits a governor from creating substantive law. Those who favor the order argue that it simply creates a policy that the executive branch will follow.
The Executive Order is available here: http://www.gov.state.la.us/assets/docs/BJ%202015-%208%20%20Marriage%20and%20Conscience%20Order.pdf