Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal issued an order that protects people who believe that gays shouldn’t marry, plunging the state into the debate weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether banning same-sex weddings is constitutional.
The order prohibits the state from denying or revoking tax exemptions, contracts, licenses or employment as long as a person’s actions were motivated by that belief, according to a statement released by Jindal spokeswoman Alexis Nicaud.
“The state should not be able to take adverse action against people, charities and family-owned businesses with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Jindal said in the statement.
“We do not support discrimination in Louisiana and we do support religious liberty,” he said.
Jindal, who is exploring a run for the Republican presidential nomination, issued the order after lawmakers let a bill die that would have mandated similar provisions.
The controversy over religious-freedom laws, as they are called, comes as federal courts are overturning state-approved gay-marriage bans. Last month, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of such bans and is expected to issue a decision before its term ends in June.
Bills similar to Jindal’s have sparked intense opposition, including in Arkansas and Indiana, where lawmakers passed them this year. In Arkansas, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson refused to sign the measure until it was revised to clarify that it didn’t authorize discrimination. Indiana Governor Mike Pence approved similar revisions to that state’s bill in April.
Jindal, 43, the first Indian-American governor of a U.S. state, had supported the legislation that died in the Louisiana House after opposition from business groups who say it would hurt the tourism industry.
In an opinion article published in the New York Times in April, Jindal accused business leaders of having an “unholy alliance” with supporters of gay marriage.
Support for same-sex marriage has reached a record high, according to a Gallup tracking poll released Tuesday. Sixty percent of Americans now support legally recognized same-sex marriages that carry the same rights as traditional marriages, compared with 37 percent who believe such marriages shouldn’t be considered valid.