Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive order that prevents the state from denying or revoking tax exemptions and deductions, contracts and other agreements based on a person’s opposition to same-sex marriage unconstitutionally creates a protected class of religious believers, an attorney for gay rights advocates argued Monday.
“He’s creating a protected class, whether he wants to call it that or not,” said Jennifer Greene, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union and others who challenged the executive order in a lawsuit.
But a lawyer representing Jindal told state District Judge Todd Hernandez that the governor did no such thing when he signed the “Marriage and Conscience Order” on May 19.
“We don’t think that’s what the order does,” argued Kyle Duncan, one of the governor’s attorneys.
The suit was filed June 30, four days after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
Greene argued that the executive order excludes the suit’s plaintiffs — the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana, Forum for Equality Foundation and six individuals — and she accused Jindal of only giving those who adhere to the traditional view of marriage between a man and woman an umbrella and sending the rest into the rain without one.
Duncan noted that Louisiana’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act of 2010 is a large umbrella that shields everyone in the state.
“The governor’s trying to make sure there aren’t holes in that umbrella,” he told the judge relative to Jindal’s executive order, which applies only to the executive branch.
Hernandez took the arguments under advisement and said he would issue a written ruling. He did not indicate when.
Duncan urged the judge to dismiss the suit, saying those who filed the suit merely have a political disagreement with Jindal and had no right to sue.
“It’s not enough to have a philosophical disagreement with the governor,” Duncan argued.
Jindal signed his order just hours after a state House committee effectively killed legislation that largely carried the same intent.
Greene argued that the governor ignored the democratic process and enacted his own law.
“The governor is only one branch of the government,” she said.
Without an emergency, executive orders cannot substantially alter the law. Jindal’s order will automatically expire 60 days after the 2016 legislative session, unless the next governor decides to extend it.
That person also could immediately rescind the order when he takes office in January.