This morning, the House Civil Law Committee finally heard State Rep. Mike Johnson’s HB 707. For about two and half hours, supporters and opponents testified on the bill. When it was all said done, House Civil Law Chairman Neil Abramson (D-New Orleans) moved to return the bill to the calendar, which would kill the bill for the session. It passed 10-2.
Johnson began the testimony by describing the bill as necessary with the Supreme Court set to make a ruling next month on gay marriage. He pointed to testimony that seemed to indicated that states would have to solve the issue of protecting conscience on this issue regarding tax exemptions and licensing.
Louisiana Family Forum President Gene Mills followed Johnson with his testimony. He also pointed out that religious institutions and schools may have their tax-exempt status threatened without the legislation if they oppose same-sex marriage. Mills compared the pending gay marriage decision to Roe v. Wade.
What followed Mills was part tent revival, although not as much in years past, and part libertarian defense of conscience. On the tent revival side, we had a spokesman for the Tea Party of Louisiana claim the nation is the “light of world, carrying out the Gospel.” On the other hand, we had solid defenses of religious freedom and conscience by former Senate candidate Col. Rob Maness and by the various religious seminaries in the state.
Then the opponents of HB 707 testified. Leading the way was Stephen Perry, CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau threatening a tourism boycott and a loss of revenue to the state of $400 million if it passed. Michael Hecht, CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc. continued with the “bad for business” theme saying that companies and events wouldn’t come to Louisiana if the bill passed. The tourism industry in particular had many representatives testifying that New Orleans would miss out on Super Bowls and conventions. One recurring threat of opponents was they would burn the state down with boycotts if the bill passed.
Another contingent of opponents were representatives from the dying mainline Protestant denominations in the state. These denominations have for decades abandoned the Gospel of Jesus Christ and adopted the gospels of Karl Marx and social justice. These ministers testimony could be summed up as a way to give the opposition some religious cover.
Finally, the professional gay activists took to the ring. Some claimed the bill would prevent AIDS treatment. Others took the time to scold Louisiana for not having anti-discrimination laws to protect gays. While still others said the bill was traumatize the gay and lesbian community. Few addressed the substance of the bill itself.
One woman wearing jeans and T-shirt from Covington, a mother of a gay son, went on what could be truly described as a bizarre, incoherent rant. She was talking about how gay youth are persecuted. She was demonstrative of the talent show of cultural Marxism the opposition’s testimony degenerated into.
At the end of all this, State Rep. and Democrat gubernatorial candidate John Bel Edwards grilled Johnson on two hypotheticals. The first was a doctor refusing treatment of a gay patient and the second is a teacher working for the state refusing to hold a teacher conference with a gay couple. Johnson said that would not prevent the employers from disciplining them.
Before Johnson got a vote on his amendments, Abramson scolded him for bring his bill. He said the bill was a distraction from the budget and was perceived as discriminatory. Then he moved for the bill to be returned for the calendar which would kill the bill for the session.
The motion to return the bill passed 10-2 with only State Rep. Ray Garofalo (R-Chalmette) and Johnson voting against it. All the Democrats on the committee voted for the motion.
They were joined by four Republicans who were unwilling to defend religious freedom. These four RINOs are Nancy Landry, Clay Schexnayder, Greg Miller, and Mike Huval. Remember these four and this vote in October.
Cameron Henry was absent for the vote.