Religious freedom fight
BATON ROUGE - IBM posted a letter Thursday voicing their concerns and "strong opposition" to a religious liberty bill being championed by Governor Bobby Jindal.
IBM said in their letter that they were concerned H.B. 707, the Marriage and Conscience Act, would allow discrimination against same-sex couples. The company, which is opening a complex in downtown Baton Rouge, said if the bill were passed it would make it more difficult for them to recruit talent to Louisiana, and they urged Jindal to make sure the bill does not discriminate.
"We are deeply concerned by reports that you intend to support this legislation," the letter to Jindal said. "We located the center in Baton Rouge because we believe Louisiana has great talent and would continue to be a rich source of such talent. However a bill that legally protects discrimination based on same-sex marriage status will create a hostile environment for our current and prospective employees, and is antithetical to our company's values."
The measure as written 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. Rep. Mike Johnson, a Bossier City Republican, sponsored it.
Earlier Thursday Jindal vigorously defended the measure, which he called a key piece of his legislative agenda. The governor strongly disagreed that the bill would allow discrimination against same-sex couples, instead arguing that it protected discrimination against Christians because of their beliefs. He also responded to IBM with a letter of his own, stating he thought they were "confused" about what the law would accomplish.
"In Louisiana, we do not support discrimination, and we do support religious liberty, and we believe we can uphold both of those values simultaneously," Jindal said.
"Our country was founded on the principal of religious liberty. We support the Bill of Rights and simply don't believe the government should ever force someone to participate in a marriage ceremony against his or her will. People, charities and small businesses should not be penalized because they believe in traditional definition of marriage."
The bill was initially stalled in the House until Johnson agreed to make several changes, including removing portions of the bill, which might have allowed businesses to deny benefits to same-sex, couples. Johnson also changed language so that instead of protecting objections related to the "institution of marriage" it protected those who objected to marriages, which were different than "the union of one man and one woman."