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Indiana Religious Freedom Bill Legalizes Discrimination

Indiana Religious Freedom Bill Legalizes Discrimination

Indiana Religious Freedom Bill Legalizes Discrimination

This is everything we don't want...

Today in Indiana, Republican Governor Mike Pence signed a bill into law that would allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT consumers based on sincerely held religious beliefs.

While backers of the bill say that this is not a bill in favor of discrimination, it is hard to imagine otherwise. As in many other states in the U.S., the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will “support the freedom of religion” (already outlined in the Constitution) of business owners. They would, technically, be able to refuse to provide services to LGBT couples because their lifestyle contradicts the owner’s religious beliefs. In February, this issue arose in Washington state in the case of Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers, when a flower shop refused provide their services for a gay wedding. The court ruled that this refusal violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination and the Consumer Protection Act. This bill in Indiana will take away those protections for its LGBT residents and legalize such discrimination.

Last year there was a very similar bill in Arizona that garnered a great deal of media attention. Much to the country’s surprise (and appreciation), Republican Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill, saying that it alienated too many of Arizona’s citizens and may have negative repercussions.

Those negative repercussions are already threatening to set in for Indiana. Gaming convention Gen Con, which brings the capitol city $50 million a year, has already threatened to find a new location if the Governor signs the bill—which he did today. Even businesses have expressed their distaste for the bill: in a letter to Governor Pence, John Gifford, an attorney at Indianapolis-based EnviroForensics said “If Indiana’s actually open for business, it needs to be open for business for everybody.”

Jane Henegar, executive director of ACLU Indiana, believes this bill was a direct reaction to the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Indiana. In a press release after the signing of the bill she states, "we are deeply disappointed that the governor and state lawmakers have been tone-deaf to the cries of legions of Hoosiers – including businesses, convention leaders, faith communities, and more than 10,000 people who signed petitions against the bill – who say they don’t want this harmful legislation to impair the reputation of our state and harm our ability to attract the best and brightest to Indiana."

Though this was the first state this legislative session to pass “right to discriminate legislation”, as we’d like to call it, Arkansas and Georgia do not trail far behind with bills of their own. It is our hope that LGBT organizations, as well as citizen groups and constituents continue to fight against this hateful and intolerant legislation. 

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Stuart Mcdonald