The Honorable Todd Hernandez, 19th JDC Judge
BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s counsel asked Judge Todd Hernandez of the 19th Judicial District Court on Monday to dismiss the litigation filed by gay rights activists against his "Marriage and Conscience" executive order issued in May.
Jindal’s counsel argued that the activists who filed suit against the governor’s order did not display any incurred damage due to the order.
Jindal maintains that the order is necessary for the protection of religious liberties of those who oppose same-sex marriage. Among the rights specifically protected are the rights to licenses, benefits, contracts and tax deductions.
The plaintiffs – the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Louisiana (ACLU), the Forum for Equality Foundation (FEF) and six New Orleans residents who brought the case before the court – oppose the order because it allegedly exceeds the bounds of Jindal’s constitutional authority.
“This lawsuit is about the Constitutional authority of the governor to create new law, not about the content of the Executive Order,” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU.
Edman said religious liberty is already fully protected under state law, making the order either completely unnecessary or an unconstitutional extent of an existing law.
Allowing Jindal the authority to extend existing law is an executive overreach with “totalitarian” implications, Esman said.
“Residents of Louisiana always face harm if one branch of government takes it upon itself to violate the Constitution and invade the exclusive province of another branch," Esman said. "Only in totalitarian societies does the head of state have the right to create laws alone."
Esman also points to potential discriminatory risks present within contents of the order itself.
“Residents of Louisiana face the risk that they, if they are not members of this particular protected class, may have their benefits denied, their licenses revoked, their tax donations challenged, etc. And this could apply to anyone that the governor might disagree with on other issues, because if the governor can do this, he or a future governor can create further favored group of people and deprive those of differing opinions the rights that they are entitled to.”
Hernandez has not yet issued a ruling after hearing Jindal’s request. Now, both parties wait to find out how the case will play out.
“If the case doesn’t get thrown out, litigation will continue to ensure the Constitutional separation of powers is protected,” Esman said.