Mayor Landrieu, legislators and tourism industry react to Jindal's "religious freedom" order

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Mayor Mitch Landrieu. - CHERYL GERBER
  • CHERYL GERBER
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's executive order on "religious freedom" has rallied opponents across the country, including New York officials calling for a travel ban to the state.

In Louisiana, legal experts doubt it will have any legal impact in the state, but, as state Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, had warned, it's the perception of the measure and how its reflects the state's treatment of same-sex couples and LGBT people that has city and state leaders concerned. Tourism officials warned that the state could lose millions of dollars in tax revenue from visitors and conventions, as well as businesses who pull out of the city, in the measure's wake. Mayor Mitch Landrieu opposed state Rep. Mike Johnson's measure when it came up for debate last month, and in a statement to Gambit this week, Landrieu reiterated that Jindal's order is "unnecessary."

"We should ensure Louisiana is a state where religious liberty and freedoms are protected and discrimination is prohibited, but Gov. Jindal's unnecessary executive order disrupts that balance," Landrieu said. "New Orleans has always been an accepting, inviting city that thrives on its diversity. Discrimination in any form should not be tolerated, and New Orleans has passed its own laws to reflect that principle."

A joint statement from the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation (NOTMC) reads, "This executive order is largely a political statement by our conservative governor in support of his national position on the issue. That is certainly his right. It is important for those who visit Louisiana to know that its effect in essence is that of a political campaign document."

The statement says the measure attempted to "address an issue that does not exist in our state — persecution of business owners by the state when practicing religious freedom. In fact, there is not one case pending in Louisiana of discrimination on the basis of views held on same-sex marriage... a strong statement on the openness, hospitality, and commitment to equality of all Louisiana businesses."

In the statement, CVB president Stephen Perry said, “Our industry remains committed to total tolerance and inclusiveness in the free marketplace and such is demanded by our businesses and by our customers nationally and internationally. We are opposed to all legislation that could either limit our freedom of religion for all or that could negatively impact our state’s economy and our reputation as an international and national leader in economic development, digital media, entrepreneurship, tourism, meetings, conventions and special events. We heartily and warmly welcome all visitors and groups of all political and philosophical orientations and welcome everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, cultural background, creed, religion, or religious interpretation of their faith.”

In a fiery speech on the floor of the state senate following Jindal's announcement of his executive order, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, said Jindal is "determined to destroy Louisiana's business climate" and called the measure "a cynical attempt to deflect from the failures of what should be the top legislative priority, what we're dealing with every day, which is a broken state budget."

She also criticized his campaign ad that ran in Iowa the same day he introduced the order, saying, "Are you kidding me? Why don't you roll some commercials out on how to fix this nightmare you created in Louisiana."

House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, also called Jindal's order "unnecessary" and "deeply disappointing."

"We have real issues to face in Louisiana," Leger said. "Instead of focusing on funding health care and education, the Governor has decided to play politics and waste valuable resources that should be focused on fixing the state’s budget — a crisis that this type of political posturing got us into in the first place. ... This type of harmful legislation is nothing more than bigotry enshrouded in religion. It does not reflect Louisiana’s values, and it is damaging to our state’s image and economy."

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