Lawmaker introduces ‘Marriage and Conscience bill’ targeting LGBT couples


By Sarah-Anne Smurlick , [email protected] @golfinggal11

A Louisiana representative proposed a Marriage and Conscience bill to the state legislature that would offer protection to those not wanting to provide services related to marriages on the basis of religious views.

Freshman Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., introduced the Marriage and Conscience Act on April 13 during the 2015 regular legislative session.

The Maroon reached out to the representative, and he said via email that he was unable to participate in an interview, and that his stance regarding the Marriage and Conscience bill could be found on his website, “Louisiana for Liberty.”

According to the website, Johnson, the primary author of the Marriage and Conscience bill, said he simply seeks to prevent adverse treatment from the state of any person or entity due to religious beliefs or moral convictions that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.

Regardless of individual definitions of marriage, Johnson said every citizen should respect the right of their neighbors to hold a different view.

“This act will preserve the most fundamental of all human rights: the right of conscience and the freedom of belief,” Johnson said on his website.

During his speech addressing the Louisiana House of Representatives on April 14, Johnson said government is beginning to intrude on the religious liberties expressed by individuals, charities and family-owned businesses

Isabel Medina, professor at Loyola’s College of Law, said that although the Marriage and Conscience bill proposes to provide protections based on religious views, it would be a step in the wrong direction for the state.

“The bill, however, exacerbates, encourages and would affirmatively protect persons who discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation,” Medina said. “It’s a setback for Louisiana. Louisiana legislators should firmly repel this bill.”

The Associated Press reported on April 13 that although republican governor Bobby Jindal supports the bill, the Marriage and Conscience Act is opposed by Senate President John Alario who said the bill makes Louisiana appear to be a place of intolerance.

“It puts Louisiana in a light of hatred and bigotry and discrimination,” Alario said.

Marcus Kondkar, associate professor and chair of sociology, said that there are already marriage and conscience bills in place that serve the purpose of the proposed bill.

“My understanding is that the significance of this bill is mostly symbolic,” Kondkar said. “We already have state and federal law that protects freedom of religion.”

According to Johnson’s website, Louisiana passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act five years ago. Johnson said the proposed Marriage and Conscience bill differs from that act because it has more specific language addressing the state’s response to individuals and businesses due to their views on marriage.

If passed, Kondkar said that the Marriage and Conscience bill is unlikely to have any tangible effect on the rights of individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

As lawmakers started the spring session, the Associated Press reported that the bill was stalled from getting a public hearing or legislative vote because it was not sent to a House committee. They also reported that the proposal sponsored by Johnson was the only bill of hundreds introduced on April 13 that was not sent to committee.

Despite the early setback, Johnson said he expects the bill to be addressed soon.

“Committee hearing should be in a few weeks,” Johnson said in an email.