A few quick thoughts on the House Civil Law committee’s decision to shelve a controversial “religious liberty” bill aimed at allowing businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples without government penalty, and on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s subsequent executive order to accomplish the same goal:
1) Tuesday morning’s hearing was something of a watershed for the Louisiana Legislature, in a good way. Other than perhaps Senate President John Alario, nobody has been a closer ally of Gov. Bobby Jindal than the Rev. Gene Mills of the Louisiana Family Forum, the state’s most prominent Christian conservative organization. And other than perhaps the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), no interest group has a stronger track record of getting its way with lawmakers.
Not today, at least not on this issue. Mills trotted out his usual culture war rhetoric, but to no avail. His side took a 10-2, bipartisan pounding.
2) As in Indiana and Arkansas, business opposition was surely key to the measure’s fate. Dow Chemical joined IBM in speaking out against the bill. Officials from GNO Inc. and the Greater New Orleans Hotel and Lodging Association made it clear that adopting the measure would send an unwelcoming message to both visitors and potential employees, and would therefore be very expensive. As much as Jindal insists that companies fighting these laws are being led by the “radical left,” they’re in fact leading from the center — and proving just how far the center has shifted across the country and even in conservative Louisiana.
3) It’s not clear yet whether the governor’s executive order will have the same effect that legislation would have had, but if it does, add this to the ever-growing list of Jindal actions that cast his state in a horrible light and do real, potentially long-lasting damage.
4) That’s not all. By taking the matter into his own hands, Jindal did just what he often criticizes President Barack Obama for doing. When Obama issued his executive order on immigration, for example, Jindal had this to say: “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.”
5) Is it a coincidence that the vote, and Jindal’s executive order, came on the same day that Jindal’s political group released its first television ad? On religious liberty? In Iowa, a state where Christian conservatives dominate the nation’s first presidential caucus? Me, I think not.
--- Stephanie Grace
Stephanie Grace writes about politics each Tuesday, Friday and Sunday on The Advocate’s oped page. She blogs about politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/gracenotes. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @stephgracenola.