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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 17, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 16
Louisiana 'freedom to discriminate' bill stalls
Section One
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Louisiana 'freedom to discriminate' bill stalls

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The so-called Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act, or the freedom to discriminate bill has stalled in both houses of the Louisiana legislature.

Like the Indiana and Arkansas Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs), the legislation would ban the state from denying business licenses, benefits, or tax deductions to private businesses because of actions they might take in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction about marriage.

Under the proposed law, wedding planners, photographers, bakers, hotels, and others who refuse to serve Gay and Lesbian couples would be exempt from legal consequences.

Although Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal reiterated his support for the bill in his April 13 State of the State Address, the bill is opposed by Louisiana Senate President John Alario and also faces opposition in the House.

Let me be crystal clear, Jindal said in his April 13 speech, I absolutely intend to fight for the passage of this legislation - and any other that seeks to preserve our most fundamental freedoms. The truth is, this should not be a conservative vs. liberal debate. Last I checked, we were all in favor of the Bill of Rights. And here in Louisiana, as long as Im your governor, we will protect religious liberty and not apologize for it.

On the other hand, Alario - a former Democrat who now heads the Republican majority in the Louisiana Senate - said it puts Louisiana in a light of hatred and bigotry and discrimination.

On the House side, the bill was the only one of hundreds submitted for the current session that was not assigned to a committee for review, which would be standard operating procedure for the legislature. The measure cannot advance until it has been considered by a committee.

The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau condemned the bill after seeing Indiana threatened with boycotts after the passage of a similar measure. The Indiana law was subsequently revised to indicate it could not be used to deny public accommodations to LGBT people.

The adoption of certain types of overreaching, problematic and divisive legislation in Louisiana has the possibility of threatening our state's third largest industry and creating economic losses pushing past a billion dollars a year and costing us tens of thousands of jobs, said Convention and Visitors Bureau President Stephen Perry in a written statement.

We urge that further debate and new legislation be tabled for now because of the huge and needless damage this could inflict on our brand and to an industry and destination city that each have a world-wide reputation as being welcoming, diverse, inclusive and exceptionally tolerant.

Leaders of Louisianas growing film industry also spoke out against the bill.

For those of us in the creative industries ... this bill creates a significant challenge, said Lampton Enochs, CEO of Moonbot Studios, a film animation company based in Shreveport, one of Louisianas three movie industry hubs.

Were competing with companies in L.A., San Francisco and New York. I think a bill like this would make it difficult to recruit out-of-state talent.

Louisianas film industry is currently a $1 billion business, and has created thousands of jobs in production and also in peripheral areas like costume design and equipment delivery services.

Some observers said the opposition was unlikely to sway Jindal, however.

I really dont expect that kind of backlash to bother Bobby Jindal at all, said Pearson Cross, an associate professor of political science at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Our governor is going to be strongly in support of this bill, given his aspirations to appeal to the right and the conservative Christian wing.

Louisiana needs to get its house in order, and alienating large groups is not the way to do that, Cross added.

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