Ahead of legislative session, bill thrusts Louisiana into debate over religious objections

Even before the opening of Louisiana's legislative session, a bill has thrust the state into the national debate over religious objections laws.

The laws have drawn national headlines in Indiana and Arkansas. Opponents say they allow for businesses and others to discriminate against gays and lesbians on moral and religious grounds. But proponents say the laws protect religious-freedom rights, guarding individuals and businesses from heavy-handed state action.

In Louisiana, the Legislature's session is set to open Monday. Exactly what the Marriage and Conscience Act would allow is in dispute.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Mike Johnson, says it will act as a protection. It has a strong proponent in Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. But Senate President John Alario, also a Republican, says he doesn't support the bill as written and that it may be a distraction this legislative session.