BATON ROUGE, La. (Christian Examiner) – Ten days after being snubbed by the Louisiana Legislature as the only bill of a hundred not to be forwarded to a committee, legislation creating a state "Marriage and Conscience Act" was returned to the calendar April 13.
One day later, the bill written by Rep. Mike Johnson of Bossier City was referred to the Committee on Civil Law and Procedure.
"Over the last several years, we have seen cases in other states in which the sincerely-held beliefs of Christians regarding marriage have been challenged in substantial ways," Gene Mills told Christian Examiner. Mills is president of the Louisiana Family Forum, which champions the bill.
"Some have been deprived of their livelihood because of these challenges," Mills continued. "HB 707 specifically deals with protecting individuals, regardless of their view on marriage, from adverse treatment by the state based on those views.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Thursday "vehemently defended the bill," according to a report on KSLA News of the ArkLaTex area that spans connecting portions of three states.
Jindal took time Thursday for a wide-ranging interview with the media, but HB 707 garnered the most attention.
The more people in Louisiana learn more about HB 707, the more they will accept it, the governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate said, reported Barbara Leader of The News Star, a regional newspaper with offices in several cities around the state.
"The great thing in America is that we support the right of folks to live their lives according to their beliefs, whether we agree with them or not," she quoted the governor as saying. "I think you can have tolerance and religious liberty. I don't think those two are mutually exclusive. ...
"Part of what the First Amendment protection that we have historically means that business owners shouldn't choose between their sincerely-held religious beliefs and being able to operate their businesses," Jindal continued.
Opponents say the bill could allow discrimination against homosexuals and lesbians on moral and religious grounds.
"This Louisiana bill really does what people accused the Indiana law of doing," University of Virginia law professor Doug Laycock told the left-leaning MSNBC.
The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau asked the bill to be dropped over its fears that if it became law. It would tarnish the state's open and accepting image, according to an article in the Times-Picayune. IBM's senior state executive, James Driesse, expressed his concerns over the bill in a letter to Jindal, the article reported.
The concerns are without merit, Mills told Christian Examiner.
"HB 707 affirms an individual's right of conscience and prevents the state from using its police power to punish those with sincere beliefs about the institution of marriage," Mills said. "HB 707 recognizes that there are differing views on marriage. No view receives more protection than another."
As written, the legislation would prohibit the state from denying any resident or business a license, benefits or tax deductions because of actions taken "in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction" about marriage.
After the bill was snubbed by the Legislature on April 13, its author/sponsor Mike Johnson took "personal privilege" on the House floor "to clarify the 'intent' of this modest proposal," Mills said. "Later, in regular order, friendly amendments which dispel the myths surrounding the bill will be made" as HB 707 moves toward a final vote.
The entire bill can be viewed at: http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=937123