ACLU sues Jindal over 'religious freedom' order

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The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) over a religious freedom executive order that he says protects opponents of same-sex marriage from government pressure.

When a religious freedom bill died in the Louisiana Legislature in May after criticism that it could sanction discrimination against gays and lesbians, Jindal immediately released a statement saying he would institute the language through an executive order, which he later did. 

The order is similar to the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration acts proposed in Arkansas and Indiana. Governors in those states both had to walk the legislation back and negotiate compromises after charges of discrimination were leveled.

The ACLU argues that Jindal’s action amounts to executive overreach that privileges those who share his opposition to same-sex marriage.

“Governor Jindal has violated the Louisiana Constitution by setting up special protections for those who share his belief system,” said Marjorie Esman, the executive director of the ACLU’s Louisiana branch.

“In our country no one is above the law, including the Governor. He swore to uphold the laws of Louisiana. This lawsuit seeks to hold him to that oath.”

The suit echoes accusations that the executive order sanctions discrimination and warns that businesses would be allowed to refuse services to same-sex couples.

It also specifically pans Jindal for allegedly making the issue political, noting his presidential ambitions.

“It has not gone unnoticed that Governor Jindal not only issued his ‘Marriage and Conscience Order’ just hours after the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee voted not to advance an identical bill, but also one day after announcing an exploratory committee to prepare for a presidential run,” the lawsuit says.

Jindal launched his White House bid Wednesday.

The suit also comes just days after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in a controversial decision panned by many Republican presidential candidates, including Jindal. He originally said his state would not immediately recognize those marriages but eventually reversed that position. The state is now issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Jindal defended his order in a statement, arguing it would help protect “religious liberty.”

“The ACLU used to defend civil liberties, now it appears they attack them,” he said in a statement to The Times-Picayune

“The Left likes to pick and choose which liberties they support at any given time, and it seems to me that religious liberty has fallen out of favor with them.”