Religious freedom is under attack in Bobby Jindal's America, where "radical liberals" and "the media elite" are bullying corporations into supporting marriage equality.
"If it's not freedom for all," Louisiana's governor argued Thursday in the New York Times, "It's not freedom at all." With his proposed faith-based bill, the Marriage and Conscience Act, Jindal claims that he wants to ensure liberty for everyone.
But the legislation is not on the side of gay and lesbian couples. Instead, it would legally protect companies from doing business with them, because same-sex ceremonies violate "a sincerely held religious belief." Without this law in place, Jindal warns of inevitable "discrimination against Christian individuals and businesses."
Jindal must have missed the memo from his fellow conservatives that this is the year for pandering to gay voters, not shaming them -- at least not to their faces. It's time for the Republican Party to officially distance itself from the governor, who in his column managed to diminish and alienate two powerful, and wealthy, voting blocs: corporate America and LGBT constituents.
Jindal is nearing the end of his second term as governor, so now he's fighting for national relevance. He's hoping to ride the momentum in Indiana, where the governor signed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But in racing to establish a legacy as a "state's rights" leader, Jindal is tainting any hope of a presidential candidacy, and exposing how out-of-step he is with his party -- and the public.
What upsets Jindal most is how fast support for same-sex couples is growing, especially in his state. One study projects that Louisiana support will hit 44 percent by 2016, outpacing that of neighboring Arkansas and Mississippi. By the election, support for marriage equality will be at least 40 percent in all 50 states, according to the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy. And Reuters reported this week that, right now, 78 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 back same-sex marriage.
It's one thing to reject the polls, as Jindal often does. It's another to dismiss the big picture entirely. That the governor has never wavered on his position doesn't make him a more committed or capable leader; it only confirms that he's obstructing the GOP conversation around LGBT rights and further cluttering the already congested field of presidential hopefuls. Not that Jindal's peers--Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and countless others -- fare any better on the issue. Each favors the "traditional" marriage definition, between a man and a woman. But when pressed recently, Rubio said that he would attend a same-sex wedding for someone "that I love and care for." Scott Walker admitted that he's been to one, and John Kasich says he's heading to a friend's gay ceremony soon. Ted Cruz hasn't "faced that circumstance" yet. What sets Jindal apart from the pack is his stubborn determination not to be swayed an inch by the culture shifting around him.
Bobby Jindal was supposed to be the right's answer to Barack Obama. But here's the difference: the president didn't allow his own opposition to same-sex marriage to dictate the law of the land. Obama "evolved" over time. Jindal has admitted that he is not capable of the same.
"Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward," Jindal said in his televised response to Obama's first State of the Union address, in 2009. But he's not offering that path forward for 2016. And he's attacking the very freedom he claims to be protecting.