March has come to an end, but the madness continues. Unfortunately, I’m not taking about the Final Four, but rather Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, or simply “Religious Freedom” law. The law states, “governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification.”
While a significant portion of Indiana’s RFRA parallels federal and other state RFRA laws, Indiana’s leaves out a provision that specifically protects civil right laws. These laws would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, Indiana state laws allow for business owners to fire a person because he or she is gay, and landlords to deny housing to people who are transgender.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence and his associates continue to defend the bill, despite national uproar, justifying that they don’t want to force business owners to act against their religious beliefs. Advocates continue to argue that the law doesn’t openly allow discrimination, so it poses no threat to the LGBT community.
More people today support LGBT rights than ever before, so for a state law that still explicitly allows for this type of discrimination is upsetting. It simply shows that the LGBT community and society as a whole still has a long road ahead.
Technically, gay and transgender people never lost their rights in Indiana because they never really had any in the first place.
When the law passed, Annette Gross, an LGBT rights supporter, organized a protest against the bill and hoped for a showing of at least 100 people. Instead, thousands rallied against the bill in downtown Indianapolis.
The crowd chanted, “No hate in our state,” and “Pence must go.” Several people held signs stating, “No hate in our state,” and “I’m pretty sure God doesn’t hate anyone.”
Several organizations, politicians, and celebrities have denounced the bill. Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterie announced he will cancel his company’s plans for a $40 million expansion at their Indiana headquarters. Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Beinoff tweeted that he will no longer send employees or customers to the state. The mayors of San Francisco and Seattle have canceled city-funded travel to Indiana. Hillary Clinton, Charles Barkley, Ashton Kutcher also voiced their outrage.
In a newspaper interview, Pence said, “I just can’t account for the hostility that’s been directed at our state. I’ve been taken aback by the mischaracterizations from outside the state of Indiana about what is in this bill.”
What do you expect when you sign a bill that paves a path towards discrimination? I hope the protests didn’t just take Pence aback, but blew him away and out of office. People dislike governors who prohibit the rights of any group, overtly or otherwise.
Gov. Pence, I know you’ll probably never read this article but I ask you: What’s the difference between discrimination of black and colored people and gay and transgender people? Discrimination is wrong no matter how one tries to frame it. People are people, whether born gay or identified as another gender.
Alongside Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long said, “This law does not discriminate, and it will not be allowed to do so.” They continued to ensure that they would encourage their colleagues to adopt a measure to clarify the misconceptions about the bill.
As of writing this article, Governor Mike pence stands behind the controversial bill and reiterates, “We’re not going to change the law.”
Well governor, only time will tell.