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Nice Tourism Industry You've Got There, Mr. Jindal. Shame If Anything Happened to It.

April 25, 2015

These are dark times for Louisiana Governor and 2016 GOP White House hopeful Bobby Jindal. Facing a staggering $1.6 billion budget shortfall, Governor Jindal's popularity is plummeting at home even as he takes his presidential campaign on the road. Making matters worse, low energy prices are leading to layoffs and draining the state treasury as each dollar drop in the price of a barrel of oil costs Louisiana $2 million in lost revenue a year. The situation is so dire that LSU and other public colleges in Louisiana are preparing to file for "academic bankruptcy."
But there is one bright spot in Bobby Jindal's home state gloom. In 2014, Louisiana's $11 billion tourism sector had its third record-setting year a row. Too bad Jindal's crusade to be the face of Republican opposition to marriage equality is putting that at risk, too.
Three weeks before Governor Jindal took to the pages of the New York Times to declare, "I am holding firm against gay marriage," his Lieutenant Governor trumpeted the success of the Pelican State's tourism industry:

2014 was another record-breaking year for the tourism industry in Louisiana. Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, who oversees the Louisiana Office of Tourism, announced that in 2014 Louisiana attracted 28.7 million visitors, a 5 percent increase over 2013, resulting in $11.2 billion in total visitor spending and $836 million in state tax revenue generated.

"Tourism and hospitality was Louisiana's fastest growing job sector in 2014 with 223,000 Louisianans employed in the industry," Lt. Governor Dardenne boasted. Tourism had yet another great year thanks to creative marketing, dedicated industry leaders throughout the state and an incredible product--the many passions Louisiana offers."
Unfortunately for the "Louisiana: Pick Your Passion" campaign, marriage between two Americans of the same sex isn't among them. And if Bobby Jindal has his way, Louisiana's proposed "Marriage and Conscience Act" will enshrine that bigotry in the cloak of "religious liberty."

The legislation would prohibit the state from denying a person, company or nonprofit group a license, accreditation, employment or contract -- or taking other "adverse action" -- based on the person or entity's religious views on the institution of marriage.
Some corporations have already contacted me and asked me to oppose this law. I am certain that other companies, under pressure from radical liberals, will do the same. They are free to voice their opinions, but they will not deter me. As a nation we would not compel a priest, minister or rabbi to violate his conscience and perform a same-sex wedding ceremony. But a great many Americans who are not members of the clergy feel just as called to live their faith through their businesses. That's why we should ensure that musicians, caterers, photographers and others should be immune from government coercion on deeply held religious convictions.

If Jindal succeeds in his faith-based ploy to please social conservatives in Iowa, those musicians, caterers, photographers, bars, restaurants, hotels and others might find themselves immune from customers, too. Leave aside companies like IBM and EA Sports which have warned Jindal that the free market will not allow them to do business in Louisiana if businesses there don't freely treat all Americans equally. Those millions of people who go to the Sugar Bowl, party during Mardi Gras or pour in for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival might choose to go without their Hurricanes and beignets.
It would be a shame if Louisiana's tourism industry, one which has come roaring back from Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, was gutted by the boycott Governor Jindal seems determined to invite. If that happens, Louisiana won't be the place Americans go to "laissez les bon temps rouler." Instead, to put in terms even Bobby Jindal can understand, it will be a "no go zone."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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