Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday that he believes support will grow for legislation that has drawn comparisons to controversial “religious freedom” measures in Arkansas and Indiana.
“I think this bill will get the support it needs to get out of committee and pass on the floor,” he said during a meeting with reporters at the Capitol. “A lot of legislators, once they understand what the bill does and doesn’t do will come out in support of the bill.”
The “Marriage and Conscience Act” seeks to bar the state from revoking the licenses of or refusing to contract with businesses or people because they oppose same-sex marriage. It also would protect tax statuses of groups that only support marriage between a man and a woman.
House Bill 707, from Bossier City Republican Rep. Mike Johnson, has faced a backlash in recent weeks as critics slammed it as being “anti-gay.” They argued that, similar to the initial Arkansas and Indiana proposals, it could encourage discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Equality Louisiana and other groups in support of gay rights have launched a “Not My Louisiana” campaign against Johnson’s legislation.
Meanwhile, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the head of the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau also have come out against the legislation.
“We should always search for common ground and ensure Louisiana is a state where religious liberty and freedoms are protected and discrimination is prohibited,” Landrieu said in a statement on the bill. “As we move forward on this important debate, I encourage our state Legislature to embrace both the principles of religious freedom and fair and equal treatment under the law.”
Johnson has offered up several amendments to the bill, which he says clarifies that its intent is not to promote discrimination.
But gay rights proponents have said the changes make the bill worse.
“None of the changes actually change the fact that the bill is authorizing discrimination against gay and transgender people” Matthew Patterson of Equality Louisiana said in a statement.
Echoing remarks that Johnson made on the House floor earlier this week, Jindal said he believes opposition has been based on “misperceptions or misunderstandings.”
“I think as folks see what the bill does, how it’s been narrowly drafted … I think there is more and more support,” Jindal said.
The proposal comes as the U.S. Supreme Court could rule on same-sex marriage. Louisiana voters in 2004 adopted a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages that have taken place in states where it’s legal.
“I hope the United States Supreme Court doesn’t overturn state laws,” Jindal said Thursday of the possibility that same-sex marriage could become legal in Louisiana through court action.
HB707 was the only bill Jindal individually referenced during Monday’s State of the State speech, and the governor’s office sent a news release of 650-something words to media in defense of the legislation late Tuesday.
Asked whether he sees parallels between businesses refusing to serve someone who is gay and discrimination that African Americans have historically faced, Jindal said the two are unrelated.
“I personally think it’s offensive to compare Catholics, Evangelical Christians — others who are trying to obey their teachings, their churches’ teachings, their consciences — to racists and bigots,” he said. “Obviously, it is wrong to treat people differently based on the color of their skin. I don’t think that is ever acceptable.”