Gov. Mike Pence, scorched by a fast-spreading political firestorm, told The Star on Saturday that he will support the introduction of legislation to “clarify” that Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.
“I support religious liberty, and I support this law,” Pence said in an exclusive interview. “But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there’s a way to clarify the intent of the law.”…
“First, this law is not about discrimination. It’s about protecting religious liberty and giving people full access to the judicial system,” he said. “But, yes, Hoosier hospitality is about making all people feel welcome in our state. We did that with the Super Bowl and with many other events, and with bringing businesses here. We will continue to do that.”
Thousands of people gathered in downtown Indianapolis on Saturday to protest the passage this week of a controversial “religious freedom” law that critics say could allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.
The protesters chanted and held signs as they marched from Monument Circle to the Indiana Statehouse to express their displeasure with Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who signed the legislation Thursday.
“No hate in our state,” “Whose State? Our State!” and “Fix the bill” were some of the chants heard in the background at the rally.
The continuing blowback over Indiana’s new “religious freedom” law hit home Saturday, with Indianapolis-based Angie’s List announcing it is canceling a $40 million headquarters expansion…
The proposed expansion of the online consumer ratings service was touted to add 1,000 good-paying jobs over five years and help revitalize a struggling Eastside neighborhood…
Chuck Brewer, the Republican candidate for mayor, called Angie’s List “an important part of the future of the Eastside” and said he hopes the project can be revived.
“While the legal impact of RFRA remains unclear, it is abundantly clear that Indiana, and therefore Indianapolis, now face a major perception problem,” Brewer said in a statement.
On Friday afternoon Charles Barkley issued a statement through his agent condemning Indiana’s Religious Freedom Act, a law that grants businesses the right to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples.
“Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me,” said Barkley. “As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states’ cities.”
The law sets a dangerous precedent, though. There are, for example, LGBT people who want to spend their money in Indiana, and some Indiana business owners don’t want that dirty queer money. Their warped faith guides them in this way and so be it. This bill will also allow businesses to deny women certain forms of contraception if the owners disapprove. The slope for such legislation is desperately slippery. As always, “religious freedom,” targets very specific groups of people—the groups those in power want to control or eradicate.
I live in Indiana and teach at Purdue University, a wonderful school with some of the brightest students I have ever had the privilege of working with. My colleagues are powerful and intelligent and kind. The cost of living is low, the prairie is wide and on clear nights, I can see all the stars in the sky above. I have reasonable access to two of my favorite cities, Indianapolis and Chicago. My commute is, with traffic, around six minutes. There have been some growing pains since I moved to the state but on the whole, I would have been happy to stay in Indiana for a while. Now, I want to leave.
The fiercest part of me knows I should stay and fight, but you cannot fight idiocy. You cannot fight a willful lack of common sense, a blatant disregard for decency, and a state government willing to codify discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. You cannot reason with people who don’t recognize the humanity in all of us.
The ceremony where Gov. Mike Pence’s signed the bill into law Thursday was deliberately low-key and private. The event was closed to the media and, even though the governor’s office issued a photograph of Pence surrounded by a clutch of backers — many in religious garb — the governor’s staff refused to provide their names…
Is it that backers don’t want to appear to be gloating in the wake of a major victory in the cultural war?
Or is it something deeper, reflecting a changing attitude about the broader issue of discussing religion in public — a shift that has left many who hold deep religious beliefs leery, maybe even afraid, to speak out for fear of being marginalized, labeled as fanatics or targeted for retribution?…
Fichter and other religious leaders stopped short of saying people of faith are intimidated when it comes to speaking about their faith, “although it is undeniable in today’s culture that an open profession of faith brings with it labels and stereotypes,” he said.
Indiana’s RFRA does not grant a license to discriminate. First of all, the state of Indiana, like 28 other states, has never prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation at public accommodations. Even without such laws in most states, discrimination doesn’t commonly occur because the United States is a nation that is tolerant of gay people and intolerant of bigots. Mean-spirited actions by a business owner anywhere in the country would almost certainly be met with a major backlash.
It is true that several local ordinances in Indiana prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but RFRA does not declare that those ordinances are invalid if someone requests a religious exemption. Again, RFRA simply establishes the balancing test courts must apply in religious freedom cases.
As Stanford’s Michael McConnell told me last year, RFRA laws haven’t yet collided with public accommodation laws. But what if they do? “For the most part, I think the public accommodation laws are going to win out,” McConnell said. “But I could imagine a circumstance where you have somebody renting out a bedroom in their house, and they have children they’re trying to bring up in a particular way, and there would be some very specific conflict with their religion that I could imagine. If the couple could go anywhere and it’s no real interference with their ability to find housing–these cases are just not all one way or the other. They depend powerfully on the particular circumstance.”…
The point of RFRA is not to discriminate against gay Americans. It is supposed to prevent the government from discriminating against religious Americans.
Pence, a Republican who is weighing a White House bid, insisted during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” the new law was not intended to regulate interactions between private individuals, but as a check on big government. He blamed “misinformation and misunderstanding around this bill” for calls for business leaders and sporting events to boycott the state.
“We’re not going to change the law, OK?” he told host George Stephanopoulos, though the governor held open the possibility of some sort of legislative clarification…
“From people who preach tolerance every day, we’ve been under an avalanche of intolerance,” he said. “I’m not going to take it lying down.”
“The issue here is: is tolerance a two-way street or not?” Pence said. “There’s a lot of talk about tolerance in this country having to do with people on the left. Here Indiana steps forward to protect the constitutional rights and privileges of freedom of religion for people of faith in our state, and this avalanche of intolerance that’s been poured on our state is outrageous.”