Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson on Tuesday defended legislation that seeks to bar the state from taking action against people over their views on same-sex marriage.
The legislation has drawn a backlash in recent weeks amid comparisons to controversial measures in Indiana and Arkansas that were seen as promoting discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Speaking from the House floor Tuesday, Johnson defended his legislation.
“We just need to get along, and that’s what this bill was intended to do,” he said, noting that he has six amendments which he deemed “mostly technical” for House Bill 707. “It was brought with all of this in mind — that we can co-exist and respect each other’s views.”
Johnson said his bill has been “misrepresented” and “misunderstood.”
Johnson, a Bossier City Republican, was a no-show at the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish’s weekly lunch on Tuesday.
Johnson was expected to talk up HB 707, or the “Marriage and Conscience Act,” but told event organizer Woody Jenkins after lunch that he was unable to attend because he was stuck in meetings on the bill at the Capitol.
The legislation, which has been linked to so-called “religious freedom” measures that sparked controversy in Indiana and Arkansas, was the only bill individually referenced by Gov. Bobby Jindal during Monday’s State of the State speech. Jindal expressed his intent to fight for its passage.
“All this bill does is provide necessary protections for individuals to prevent adverse treatment from the state based on religious beliefs regarding marriage. This legislation does not allow a restaurant or industry to refuse service to a gay or lesbian person,” Jindal said during his speech.
But HB707 also happens to be the only bill not assigned to committee on Monday, which could serve as a temporary stalling measure or a death knell to Johnson’s proposal.
According to Jenkins, Johnson told him he had been meeting with Jindal’s office and House Speaker Chuck Kleckley.
Jindal spokeswoman Shannon Bates Dirmann reiterated the governor’s commitment to the bill on Tuesday.
“Rep. Johnson is taking a bold stand to bring this legislation, and we strongly support it. We believe that the Legislature should give it a fair hearing,” she said.
Critics of the legislation have argued that it’s unnecessary and fosters discrimination against gay people.
Johnson, who didn’t respond to The Advocate’s request for comment Tuesday, has said it would only prevent the state from retaliating against business owners over their beliefs on same-sex marriage — a point Jindal argued during Monday’s speech.
The legislation would bar the state denying or revoking state licenses, tax deductions or contracts, based on a business owner’s views of same-sex marriage. Johnson has said the legislation would prevent retribution over someone’s beliefs.