What does this bill do?
House Bill 597, by State Representative Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City), provides legal protections for some organizations and their employees to refuse to provide “services, accommodations, facilities, goods or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage” they disagree with. Specifically:
- Nonprofits may not lose their tax-exempt status for refusing to provide services.
- The state may not decline to contract with organizations that discriminate.
- The state may not decline to issue grants to organizations that discriminate.
- These organizations and people accredited, licensed, or certified by the state may not be sanctioned by accrediting bodies for refusing services or discriminating against clients.
Who is covered by this bill?
Religious organizations, groups connected with religious organizations, and their employees. This includes hospitals and nonprofits the state works with to provide public services like healthcare and homeless shelters.
Why does this bill exist?
After watching his HB 707 defeated by a bipartisan vote of 10-2 in committee last year, Rep. Mike Johnson said he’d try again. If this bill were only intended to do what it says on the label – protect pastors – it would be completely unnecessary. Priests, pastors, rabbis, and other clergy are already covered under federal and state free speech law. But this bill’s language is dangerously vague and leaves the door open for discrimination.
Are LGBT people in other states facing attacks like this?
Yes. Just like Rep. Johnson’s HB 707 last year, this bill is part of a national surge in anti-LGBT legislation. In Missouri, opponents mounted a 36-hour filibuster against a similar measure, and in Georgia the state’s conservative Republican governor came out strongly against a discriminatory bill that started out just like Rep. Johnson’s.
What are some examples of actions motivated by a religious belief regarding marriage that this bill will protect?
- A covered employer may refuse to provide benefits such as health insurance, life insurance, pensions, or retirement plans to employees or their partners in same-sex marriages.
- Employers may also refuse to provide benefits to employees who have been remarried, who are not married in the employer’s religious tradition, or whose marriage does not comply with any other religious belief of the employer, even if they are required by law to offer these benefits equally to all married employees.
- Some hospitals may refuse access to the spouses of patients in marriages that don’t comply with a particular religious belief.
- Some schools may refuse to enroll the children of people whose marriages do not comply with a particular religious belief without losing their state contracts.
- Some nonprofit organizations such as food pantries or homeless shelters may refuse to provide services to people whose marriages do not comply with a particular religious belief without endangering their nonprofit status or any grants or contracts from the state.
What can I do?
Last year, a strong and diverse coalition of voices from across Louisiana came together to show that Rep. Johnson’s agenda has no place in the Louisiana we know and love. With your help, we can do it again this year: