By Melinda Deslatte
BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. Bobby Jindal’s lawyer has asked a state district judge to throw out a lawsuit that challenges Jindal’s executive order offering special protections to people who oppose same-sex marriage.
Judge Todd Hernandez heard arguments in a hearing about Jindal’s request Monday but did not immediately rule.
Jindal’s “Marriage and Conscience” executive order prohibits state agencies under his control from denying licenses, benefits, contracts, or tax deductions in response to actions taken because of someone’s “religious belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”
The governor, courting evangelical voters in his long-shot Republican presidential campaign, described the May 19 order as a protection of “religious liberty” for Christians who oppose same-sex marriage.
The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Louisiana, the Forum for Equality Foundation and six New Orleans residents are seeking to have Jindal’s order declared unconstitutional.
The lawsuit was filed in June, days after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively struck down bans on same-sex marriage in Louisiana and several other states.
Jindal’s lawyer, Kyle Duncan, told Hernandez that the gay rights advocates who filed the lawsuit haven’t shown that they face harm from the order. He described it as nothing more than a philosophical disagreement.
“They’re under no legal jeopardy whatsoever under this order,” he said.
Attorney Jennifer Greene, representing the plaintiffs, said the governor has tried to create and interpret state law with his order, exceeding the bounds of his authority and stepping on the toes of the legislative and judicial branches of government. She noted that Jindal issued the order after lawmakers refused to write similar provisions into Louisiana law.
“Here we have an executive who has decided to ignore our representative democracy,” Greene said.
Duncan said Louisiana already has a state law that seeks to protect a person’s free exercise of religion, and he said Jindal’s order was further clarifying that existing law.
“The governor believed it was necessary to remind certain state agencies that that law needed to be followed,” Duncan said.
He acknowledged there was no evidence to suggest that any state agency planned to deny licenses, contracts or tax breaks because of a person’s opposition to same-sex marriage — even before Jindal issued the order.
Greene questioned the need to issue an order if Jindal believed existing law already offered the protections he sought.
When Jindal released the order in May, some lawyers suggested it had no practical effect and was unenforceable because of limits on Jindal’s power. The governor’s office dismissed the criticism.