[JURIST] Louisiana legislatures on Tuesday rejected a religious objections bill that was pushed by Governor Bobby Jindal [official website]. A House legal committee voted 10-2 [AP report] to kill the bill, ending weeks of serious debate. However, in an effort to solicit Christian conservatives for his likely presidential bid in 2016, Jindal immediately responded by issuing an executive order aimed at doing essentially the same thing as the bill, just on a smaller scale. The proposed bill would prohibit the state from taking punitive action against individuals, businesses and nonprofits because of actions they take “in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction” about marriage. Critics believe that such an action could lead to discriminatory practices. The move by Jindal was also criticized as basically a political statement and likely to have “very little practical impact.”
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, as well as freedom of religious practice, remain controversial issues in the US. Nineteen other states have enacted some variety of religious freedom laws, most modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act [text] signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993. Indiana and Arkansas were in the spotlight earlier this year for signing two similar bills into law. In late March the Arkansas Senate approved a controversial bill [JURIST report] intended to protect religious freedoms of businesses that critics said could allow people to go too far and refuse service to LGBT individuals. Also in late March the Indiana Senate gave final approval [JURIST report] to a very similar bill that would allow business owners the same “freedoms.” However, in April the governors of the two states signed into law [JURIST report] amended versions of the bills stating that the religious freedom law does not authorize any business to refuse to provide service to any individual or customer based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to race, color, religion, age, national origin, disability and military service.