Tech giant IBM has cancelled a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new National Service Center in Baton Rouge as a sign of protest against the religious freedom executive order issued last month by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Jindal, who is set to announce his Republican presidential nomination bid this week, issued the order after the Louisiana legislature killed the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act bill.
The IBM ceremony set on June 22 was already scheduled months ahead, according to Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District, and other civic leaders, WAFB reported.
IBM wrote Jindal a letter last April to voice the company's strong opposition to the Marriage and Conscience Act.
"We are deeply concerned by reports that you intend to support this legislation," wrote James Driesse, IBM senior state executive.
The company told Jindal that IBM has made "significant investments" in Louisiana that created new jobs.
"However, 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 will find it much harder to attract talent to Louisiana if this bill is passed and enacted into law," Driesse said.
In his reply, Jindal said the act "will absolutely not 'protect discrimination' or legalise discrimination in any way."
"All the bill seeks to do is ensure that State cannot discriminate against an individual or entity on the basis of that persons sincerely held religious view about traditional marriage," the governor wrote Driesse.
Jindal said Louisiana already has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed in 2010.
"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 said.
His executive order states that "it is of preeminent importance that government take no adverse action against a person, wholly or partially, on the basis that such person acts in accordance with his religious belief that marriage is or should be recognised as the union of one man and one woman, but that this principle not be construed to authorise any act of discrimination."
The government, the order added, should take no adverse action to "deny or revoke an exemption from taxation pursuant to La. R.S.47:287.501 of the person who is acting in accordance with his religious belief."
It also prevents the State from denying or excluding "such person from receiving any state grant, contract, cooperative agreement, loan, professional license, certification, accreditation, employment, or other similar position or status."