After IBM says ‘religious freedom’ bill creates hostile environment, Bobby Jindal urges company to ignore ‘smears and misconceptions’

By:  The Advocate Staff

Advocate Photo by ELIZABETH CRISP -- Gov. Bobby Jindal met with reporters in his office Thursday to discuss the 2015 session of the Louisiana Legislature.

IBM, which is opening a technology services center in downtown Baton Rouge, penned a letter earlier this week expressing “strong opposition” to legislation before the Louisiana Legislature that aims to create legal protections for people who oppose same-sex marriage.

The “Marriage and Conscience Act” has been linked to controversial “religious freedom” measures in Arkansas and Indiana and has been criticized as promoting discrimination against gay people.

“A bill that legally protects discrimination based on same-sex marriage status will create a hostile environment for our current and prospective employees, and is antithetical to our company’s values,” IBM Senior State Executive James M. Driesse wrote to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who supports the bill. “IBM will find it much harder to attract talent to Louisiana if this bill is passed and enacted into law.”

He went on to urge Jindal to “work with the Legislature to ensure this legislation is not discriminatory.”

On Thursday, in a 30-minute meeting with Louisiana reporters at the State Capitol Jindal, said he believes opponents of the bill don’t understand it because of “misperceptions or misunderstandings.”

The “Marriage and Conscience Act” seeks to bar the state from revoking the licenses of or refusing to contract with businesses or people because they oppose same-sex marriage. It also would protect tax statuses of groups that only support marriage between a man and a woman.

“I think as folks see what the bill does, how it’s been narrowly drafted … I think there is more and more support,” Jindal said.

He expressed a similar sentiment in his reply to IBM.

“I hope you and your colleagues will cut through the smears and misconceptions being spread about this bill and learn about what it actually seeks to accomplish,” he wrote.

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