Earlier this week, Indiana Governor signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He states the law "ensures that Indiana law will respect religious freedom and apply the highest level of scrutiny to any state or local governmental action that infringes on people's religious liberties."
Sounds great, huh? It sounds like everyone will have the right to go to church without interference from the state. Or something like that.
In truth, this law is anything but harmless. In essence, it states that business owners can choose not to serve customers who offend their religious beliefs. The most common example of what is wrong with this legislation is that a Christian owned business can refuse to serve members of the LGBT population because it would 'infringe on their religious liberty.' How do you differentiate when a business is discriminating for religious reasons, or they are homophobes using religion as an excuse , or what if the two are intertwined? It is never acceptable to discriminate, and religious rights should not trump any human rights.
If you were to combine this legislation with the fact that Indiana doesn't have any anti-discrimination legislation around sexual orientation, it would mean that, theoretically, businesses would legally be able post signs in their windows saying "No Gays Allowed." (I'd be inclined to misinterpret such a sign as saying "Please throw rocks through our windows" but that's just me).
On a positive note, it was great to see the backlash against this legislation. Connecticut announced a boycott of Indiana and large business deals involved with the state were put on hold. Here in Ontario, Canada, our openly gay Premier, Kathleen Wynne, condemned the Indiana legislation, calling it 'unacceptable that in the 21st century such a law would be used to divide people and create hostility." Ontario does a fair bit of trade with Indiana, and although our Premier fell short of curtailing that business, she urged companies looking for more open, non discriminatory jurisdiction to consider Ontario.
In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Pence called this backlash against his legislation "intolerant." What a great concept. People who are intolerant of his intolerance are intolerant. Wow!
Pence said on Tuesday, he stands by the bill but acknowledged Indiana has a 'perception problem' and urged lawmakers and business leaders to address concerns that the bill would allow discrimination. Good luck with that! It's sad that a bill like this even exists where such concerns must be addressed.