NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - It is nearly 900 miles from Louisiana to the state of Indiana, but the ongoing controversy over Indiana's new religious freedom law has people in the city of New Orleans concerned.
"It opens the door for a company to discriminate just based on the defense of religious freedom," said local attorney Ryan Delaney, who is openly gay.
The Indiana law says the state cannot have laws that "substantially burden" the ability of individuals, businesses, institutions and associations to follow religious beliefs unless there is compelling government interest to do so. Already, an Indiana business says the law supports its right to deny catering services to same-sex couples for weddings.
Louisiana's Religious Freedom Act 793 was approved in 2010 and has not generated much in the way of acrimony or opposition.
"We haven't seen any in terms of the gay and transgender community, any negative reaction to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was passed in 2010 thus far. It very much mirrors the federal legislation that we have," said SarahJane Brady, Executive Director of the Forum for Equality.
Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, said the legislation's intent is clear, and that is to prevent government infringement on people's rights to believe as they choose.
"Any attempt to infringe upon that would require a compelling state interest and also the solution had to be the least injurious," said Martiny.
And Martiny insists the law does not involve discriminating against anyone.
"Never once was there any mention whatsoever, or anything pertaining to discrimination against gays..
And it protects everybody, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, you know Episcopalians, everybody," said Martiny.
But with Louisiana's legislative session starting in a matter of days, some people fear there will be pressure to change Louisiana's law to mirror what has been approved in Indiana, or even Arkansas.
Recently, Bossier City State Rep. Mike Johnson was quoted as saying he is drafting legislation to prohibit Louisiana state government from denying licenses and permits to businesses based on the owners' interpretation of marriage.
Even though the promised bill is still in the works, some express early concerns.
"The fear is that if we open the door for private companies to discriminate based on religious that could prevent companies from wanting to come to our state, especially when we're trying to advance the entertainment industry, health care and sporting events," said Delaney.
"We don't want to see the negative impacts that we've seem in Indiana happen here," said Brady.
And Brady said members of the LGBT community are already facing discrimination here in Louisiana.
"You can't get married, so there are many ways that you can be legally discriminated against in this state already," she said.
Louisiana's 2015 legislative sessions begins April 13 at the state capitol in Baton Rouge.