IBM tells Jindal the Marriage and Conscience Act will make it harder to attract talent to Louisiana; governor defends bill in response

IBM, which is nearing completion of its new technology and service center in downtown Baton Rouge, has sent a letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal warning that a pending religious freedom bill would create a hostile environment for the tech company’s employees.

“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 vice president James Driesse writes in the letter to Jindal. “IBM will find it much harder to attract talent to Louisiana if this bill is passed and enacted into law.”

In his own letter, Jindal responds by saying: “I appreciate the letter, but fear that you are confused about what the bill would accomplish in practice, and I hope I can clear up some misconceptions.”

The letter from Driesse asks Jindal to work with the state legislature to “ensure this legislation is not discriminatory.” Jindal says The Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act “will absolutely not ‘protect discrimination’ or legalize discrimination in any way.” Rather, Jindal says: “All the bill seeks to do is ensure the STATE cannot discriminate against an individual or entity on the basis of that persons sincerely held religious view about traditional marriage.”

The letter is the latest warning from corporate America to states that are considering controversial religious freedom laws. Critics claim such laws give businesses the ability to discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people on religious grounds. In Indiana and Arkansas, an intense backlash has already forced lawmakers to make revisions.

Jindal maintains the Louisiana law is not similar to the bills in Indiana and Arkansas, adding it “does not give businesses or individuals the right to refuse service to gays or lesbians.” In closing his letter to Driesse, Jindal says he hopes the company will “cut through the smears and misconceptions being spread about this bill and learn about what it actually seeks to accomplish. … I hope you will reconsider your position on [the bill].”

Read the complete letter from IBM to Jindal, as well as the letter Jindal sent to the company in response.

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