Since the beginning of the Louisiana legislative session in April, I’ve been working in a coalition to defeat the badly named “Marriage and Conscience Act.”
House Bill 707 was a brazen attempt to insert religious beliefs and moral objections into Louisiana law in such a way as to enshrine discrimination against same-sex couples.
House Bill 707 consumed the efforts of Louisiana’s LGBTQ community (Forum For Equality, HRC LA, EQLA), progressive organizations (Louisiana Progress, ACLU LA) as well as many in the business (GNO Inc, DOW, IBM, EA Sports, etc), tourism (NOCVB) and faith communities. In fact, Forum for Equality ended up voluntarily deferring our own anti-discrimination bill (HB 612 – Louisiana Non-discrimination Act) and Equality Louisiana did the same for their ENDA bill (HB 632) in order to focus more fully on defeating Mike Johnson’s bill.
Yesterday, after a grueling four hours of testimony — and let me tell me that having to listen to one of the bill’s proponents compare the work of equality advocates to rape is not something I recommend for the faint of heart — the LA House Civil Law and Procedure Chair, Neil Abramson, after a lecture to the freshman representative about introducing this bill during a fiscal session, used a procedural move to return the bill to the calendar. With bi-partisan support, the motion passed 10-2. As there are only three weeks left in the session, that essentially killed the bill.
Let me tell you why this is a victory – Governor Bobby Jindal had made this bill one of his three legislative priorities for the year and had called each of the committee members into his office to bully them into supporting the bill. Additionally, the leader of the Louisiana Family Forum, Gene Mills, expended an enormous amount of political capital on passing this bill ahead of the June Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. The LA Family Forum is an off-shoot of the hate group Family Research Council and anytime we can deal a blow to their mean-spirited operations, we rejoice.
In the late afternoon, in an act reeking of desperation, Bobby Jindal issued an Executive Order implementing the main points of the failed bill. This from a man who once derided President Obama’s issuing of an Executive Order by saying: “Granting amnesty by executive order is wrong…If the President wants to make the case that the law should be changed, he should go make the case to Congress and our people. This is an arrogant, cynical political move by the President, and it’s why so many Americans no longer trust this President to solve the problems we face.”
This Executive Order is a slap in the face to the fair minded citizens of Louisiana AND to all of the elected legislators as well. There are also a number of problems with it, legally. Not only is it likely that he has exceeded his legal authority by writing such a broad order but, by elevating one religious belief about marriage over others, he has probably also violated the establishment clause. Under Louisiana statute, Executive Orders expire about six months after a new governor is sworn in (i.e. the order shall terminate sixty days following adjournment sine die of the regular session of the legislature after the issuing governor leaves office), so there is a limit to the damage this EO can do, even should it survive an almost certain legal challenge.
I want to thank all our allies and supporters who worked tirelessly during this fight. I really appreciate all who came to the capital on Tuesday to testify and otherwise show their opposition to the bill. I’m very grateful to the legislators who had agreed to vote the measure down and all who did vote to send it to the dustbin of history.
If anyone would like to send a thank you to the committee members who voted against moving this bill forward, please follow this link. Anyone wishing to contact Bobby Jindal’s office and register your displeasure, the phone number is below: I’m going to close with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall.
So, raise a glass with me and let us toast to always.