On Tuesday, Louisiana’s anti-gay “religious liberty” bill died in committee after a bipartisan coalition of representatives voted it down. The bill, which would explicitly permit all businesses, state-funded programs, and state agencies to discriminate against gay couples, was a keystone of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s political agenda. So, soon after the measure failed, Jindal issued a nearly identical executive order to permit every business and agency—from restaurants and hotels to banks and social services—to refuse service to gay couples
Jindal’s executive order is notable for two reasons. First, the Louisiana governor is clearly considering a run at the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Over the last few years, Republican strategists, pundits, and young ’uns have been telling us that this time around, the GOP would take a tolerant turn on gay rights. But like Jeb Bush, Jindal is doubling down on LGBTQ issues, zigging hard to the right even as the rest of the country zags further to the left. As the New York Times’ Ross Douthat admitted a while ago, the conservative endgame on marriage equality at this point is to guarantee anti-gay holdouts the legal right to demean same-sex couples and their families. Jindal, like Bush, appears to be more interested in pandering to this shrinking minority than appealing to the supermajority of Americans who support equality.
Second, Jindal has been a vituperative critic of President Barack Obama’s executive orders, especially his order deferring deportation for many undocumented immigrants. In a press release, Jindal castigated Obama for “bypassing Congress” and “ignoring the American people,” slamming the order as “an arrogant, cynical political move.” Jindal seemed to be keenly concerned that Obama imposed his policy preference by executive fiat rather than allowing the people, through their elected representatives, to have their say. Now, though, the people’s representatives have firmly rejected Jindal’s bill—and rather than persuading the legislature to reconsider the measure, Jindal has simply imposed it by executive decree.
Only a painfully gullible naïf could be surprised to see a Republican eagerly aping Obama’s methods of governance while simultaneously denouncing the president’s maneuvers. Even as Mitt Romney condemned Obama’s executive orders in 2012, he planned a sweeping slew of his own. And Jeb Bush, who scores points on the campaign trail by lambasting Obama’s executive overreach, would enthusiastically issue his own favored executive orders in the early days of his presidency.
As Zack Kopplin recently noted in Slate, Jindal—a Brown University biology major and Rhodes scholar—already became a creationist in order to further his presidential ambitions. And after the GOP turned against the Common Core standards, Jindal performed a startling about-face, disparaging the curriculum he once supported. Now he has abandoned his purported dedication to executive restraint in order to disparage the rights of gay couples in Louisiana. Jindal has framed his anti-gay crusade in terms of liberty—but really, it’s about power: the power of the state to demean gay people; the power of the governor to impose his vision of the law; and, most important, the power of Bobby Jindal to become president of the United States.