Upon Further Review, IBM’s Stance On Mike Johnson’s Bill Just Doesn’t Compute

As we told you late last night, IBM has written a letter to Governor Jindal, “House Speaker Charles Checkley”, and Senate President John Alario coming against State Rep. Mike Johnson’s religious freedom bill. In the letter, they whined that it would negatively impact their ability to attract employees.

Having looked into this story a little bit more and I have to come to the conclusion this stance by IBM is just weird. Let’s review some of the particulars of this case.

  • In 2004, Louisiana enacts a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Before this, homosexuality was not protected by state anti-discrimination laws.
  • In 2010, Louisiana passes a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the legislation that was under dispute in Arkansas and Indiana. It sailed through both houses of the legislature. It passed the Senate 29-6  and passed the House 99-6.
  • In 2013, despite all this, IBM signs a deal with the state and East Baton Rouge Parish to expand their operations in Baton Rouge. They receive over $75 million from the state and parish governments to do it. This was despite the fact that IBM is consistently rated one of the most gay friendly companies in the world.
  • IBM continues to do business in some of the most gay unfriendly countries in the world such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Bangladesh, Brunei, and Pakistan. These are countries where homosexuals are either executed or thrown in prison for life, often times next to the Christians. At least IBM can say they’re consistently bad on religious freedom.

Fast forward to this year and the fights over RFRA in Arkansas and Indiana. The tech industry and the business community led the backlash against both bills.

IBM was late to the game in condemning both pieces of legislation, despite the fact they have operations in both states. The statement that was eventually released was pretty tepid.

Perhaps the gay lobby got to IBM and complained over IBM’s lack of response. Perhaps local IBM officials in both North Carolina and Louisiana decided to take the iniative and encourage corporate to attack similiar legislation. Who knows.

What resulted in the case of Louisiana is a letter where they it appears they deliberately lied about the legislation being considered. This legislation is essentially meaningless unless the Supreme Court decides to overturn gay marriage bans in all 50 states. If that happens, all this would do is prevent local and state government from going after tax exemptions or punishing companies that oppose gay marriage.

Who IBM chose to front the campaign against HB 707 in Louisiana is also a mystery. Instead of the CEO leading it as other companies have done, they chose James Driesse, who has run their operation in Louisiana for a very long time. You would hope he would’ve at least learned how to spell the name of the Speaker of the Louisiana House, Chuck Kleckley, by now for starters. He’s only been Speaker of the House for three years.

Plus is Driesse really the best person to front this campaign? In April 2000, Driesse was among 12 men arrested in the Coates Hall bathroom at LSU. According to The Advocate, he and the other men were accused of “exposing their genitals and masturbating in front of plainclothes officers.” A thread on Tiger Droppings and an article at the Reveille, LSU’s newspaper, explains what goes on in the Coates Hall bathroom.

Now Driesse is married with kids and we didn’t bring it up to pass judgement on whether or not Driesse is gay. It’s none of our business either way. We should also point out that Driesse was not convicted of the obsenity charge. In most cases like this, particularly when they don’t involve children or other crimes, they never go to trial.

This makes you wonder if IBM actually thought this through. So far, this looks like amateur hour by one of the nation’s leading blue chip companies.



Interested in more news from Louisiana? We've got you covered! See More Louisiana News
Previous Article
Next Article
Join the Conversation - Download the Speakeasy App.

Trending on The Hayride