WASHINGTON — A brewing fight in Louisiana over a controversial religious freedom bill has the potential to grow into an even bigger skirmish than fights over similar bills in Arkansas and Indiana.
On Thursday, in a New York Times op-ed Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) vowed not to follow the examples of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) and bow to national or local pressure to pull support of a controversial religious freedom bill. Jindal’s line in the sand is the latest example of how Louisiana’s fight differs from Indiana and Arkansas.
Here’s five things to keep in mind:
Both Jindal and state Rep. Mike Johnson (R), who introduced the Louisiana bill insist it differs from the ones in Indiana and Arkansas. In Indiana, for example, the bill aimed to protect businesses from being forced by the government to serve gay customers based on religious objections.
Jindal, in his op-ed Thursday, made sure to point out that Johnson’s bill is just meant to stop the government from penalizing a business for religious objections on same-sex marriage by taking away business licenses or tax credits.
Jindal’s op-ed is actually a follow-up of his previous support for Johnson’s bill. Asked for the governor’s stance on the bill by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a Jindal spokesman said the governor definitely supports it.
“This is a common sense bill that provides necessary protections for individuals to prevent adverse treatment from the state based on religious beliefs regarding marriage,” the spokesman told the newspaper.
Pence, at first, seemed adamant in not giving in to any criticism or pressure, be it by Democrats or national or local businesses, in changing the the religious freedom law he signed. Eventually though the pressure was too much and Pence called on lawmakers to clarify the law. Hutchinson seemed to see the writing on the wall and also sent the religious freedom bill back to his state legislature. Jindal’s op-ed is a move that the other governors didn’t take and a clear line in the sand that he wants things to go differently in his state.
Republicans in Arkansas and Indiana seemed much more united during passage of the respective religious freedom bills in the legislature there. But in Louisiana, Johnson has already caught flack from his side over the bill. Baton Rouge Metro Councilman John Delgado called Johnson a “despicable bigot of the highest order.”
CNN political contributor and former National Hispanic co-chairwoman for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntman’s (R) presidential campaign also mocked Jindal over his support of the bill.
Bobby Jindal so wants to draw attention to himself and be part of the conversation…any conversation. http://t.co/StESyPNhHx
— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) April 23, 2015
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, was one of the biggest names in the tech community to weigh in against the Indiana and Arkansas bills. This time around, IBM is the high-profile tech company out in front against the Louisiana religious freedom bill.
IBM Senior State Executive James M. Driesse wrote a letter to Jindal expressing “strong opposition” to Johnson’s Marriage and Conscience Act. Driesse warned that “a bill that legally protects discrimination based on same-sex marriage status will create a hostile environment for our current and prospective employees, and is antithetical to our company’s values. IBM will find it much harder to attract talent to Louisiana if this bill is passed and enacted into law.”
This is an argument similar to what other top tech and business leaders made against the Indiana and Arkansas bills: that anti-gay legislation would effectively turn away talented employees from working in the state.
IBM issued a similar warning to state lawmakers in North Carolina over a religious freedom bill there. But North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has expressed reservations about signing the bill.
Jindal has worked to stay in the pool of Republicans showing interest in running for president in 2016. He’s hired a state director in Iowa and has travelled to New Hampshire alongside other declared and likely 2016 Republican candidates. Pence has been mentioned as a potential but he hasn’t taken the steps other Republicans interested (or at least toying) with the idea of running have in the past few months. Hutchinson’s name never comes up as a possible presidential candidate.
Jindal tends to poll near the bottom of the 2016 field, though. A CNN poll released on Monday found just 2 percent of Republicans surveyed say Jindal is their first choice for president.