For Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence, and their recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it tolls most definitely for them.
Indiana. The state known for basketball, corn, and whatever the hell “a Hoosier” is.
Yet late last week, it was also nationally known for something much less flattering.
Last Thursday Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law. The legislation – that was approved by the GOP controlled legislature – would not allow local and state governments to “substantially burden” an individual’s religious freedom unless a compelling government interest can be proved. While on the surface all this sound relatively benign, the problems start to surface when talking about LGBT rights.
Under this law, businesses could refuse the LGBT community service due to their religious beliefs. For example, a bakery or florist could deny a gay couple service for their wedding. Which brings up the interesting scenario of while in Indiana having a gay wedding is perfectly legal, having a nice gay wedding; not so much. I believe the academic term for this is what researchers refer to as “a cluster fuck.”
As you might have guessed, civil liberties groups and supporters of LGBT rights were pretty upset over the new law. It even went as far as major companies like Angie’s List and Salesforce – a $4 billion software company – to greatly reduce business with the mid-western state. To go even further, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy recently announced he would sign an Executive Order barring state-funded travel to Indiana specifically due to the new RFRA law. Hell, even Miley Cyrus posted an Instagram calling Gov. Pence an “asshole.” Which calls to that famous ancient Chinese Proverb, “if Miley Cyrus occupies the moral high ground, did you ever really have it at all?”
So yeah, at the moment, people are extremely pissed at Gov. Pence. But he insists that it isn’t about discrimination. Let Gov. Pence eloquently put your mind at ease,
Oh I’m sorry, did I say “eloquently put your mind at ease?” What I meant to say was, let him “fumblingly put sentences together as he re-enacts a man drowning in his own bullshit.”
But Gov. Pence just has one question, “why you mad brah?”
For the life of him he can’t understand why people are so upset over this new law? In an interview with The Indianapolis Star Gov. Pence said, “[he] just can’t account for the hostility that’s been directed at [his] state.” Well, I like to think we offer a service here, so if Gov. Pence is reading this, here’s currently why…
One thing, your timing couldn’t have been any worse. Like seriously, anti-LGBT legislation is so 2008! Right now, you’re that guy at a party who keeps yelling “superman dat hoe” after every shot!
As this Washington Post graph shows, support for gay marriage among the general public is at an all-time high right now. Taken from recent Gallop-Poll numbers, the last time gay marriage was below the majority approval mark was before 2010. From 2011 on, gay marriage support has started to gradually rise to a now over 55% approval rating!
Now I’m no mathemagician, but having over half of the country pissed at you, well those are Justin Bieber numbers!
Oh what, you’re saying what about the 19 other states that include RFRA laws? Why are they exempt from public outrage?
Well… simple. Indiana’s RFRA legislation is special like a snowflake. An incredibly intolerant snowflake.
As the map above shows, there are currently 19 other states that include some form of RFRA laws that many became livid with last week. Even progressive states like Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut have RFRA laws. Hold on, really (!!!), Connecticut?
In fact there’s actually a federal law that shares the same name! In 1993, former President Bill Clinton signed a similar bill that prohibited the government from “substantially burdening” an individual’s religious freedoms, unless it’s for “compelling government interests.” The funny thing here is, the initial intention of the RFRA law is actually a solid one. It’s used for a wide variety of reasons like giving churches the grounds to feed the homeless, giving Muslim women the right to wear scarfs or veils in public, or even something as simple as allowing of Jewish faith to observe the Sabbath.
The problem with Indiana’s version of the RFRA law – along with some other states – is that they have tweaked the law to expand beyond the protection of just individuals and religious groups, but added the potential for corporations to be protected as well!
Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby – where the court ruled that under the current RFRA law, corporate employers could veto their employees’ right to contraceptive coverage – it created precedence for businesses in those states to deny services to certain people over their sexual orientation due to religious reasons.
Now while it’s true that the few cases where same-sex weddings that were denied services have gone to the defendants (ie same-sex couples) under the grounds that anti-discrimination laws trump religious freedom, that doesn’t mean it will always be the case. Washington – where one of these cases came in favor of the same-sex couple – has non-discrimination laws in place. In these states where non-discrimination laws exist against sexual orientation and gender identity, you can make the case that not providing service to same-sex couple counts as discrimination.
But in states like Georgia, Indiana, or Arkansas where RFRA laws exist; yeah… not so much.
In fact, whenever politicians or social conservatives from these states have been questioned about the RFRA law they keep insisting it’s not meant to discriminate against any group. They go as far as accusing the media and those who question the law of being “idiots” and creating a crusade from “misunderstanding driven by misinformation.”
And while I was researching all of this, I was REALLY hoping they were right; that we were all just misunderstanding the law. But the reality of the situation looks to be that these new breed of RFRA laws are in fact directly pinpointed at the LGBT community.
In Georgia last week a new clause was proposed to be added to the state’s RFRA law that would allow protection to the state’s LGBT community. The bill sponsors said they would rather kill their own bill (!!!) than have protections put in that would protect the LGBT community against discrimination!
As for Gov. Pence, when asked in that same Indiana Star interview whether he would be willing to make “gay a lesbians a protected legal class in the state” – which would create non-discrimination laws for the LGBT community – he was quoted “that’s not on my agenda.”
You see, this whole RFRA thing is like getting a dog to guard your house. While that’s all well and good, just having a dog be in front of your house isn’t enough for you. No! So you start doing this to it.
The problem now lies in that your dog keeps mauling anyone within a block’s radius of your house. Now instead of being a rational human being and putting a fence around your property, you keep telling everyone that your dog attacks that “you just don’t ‘understand’ Mr. Sparkles, he isn’t biting your face off, it’s just his way of saying he wants to play!”
So Gov. Pence, that’s why SO MANY people hate you at the moment.
What you – and many other conservative law makers – did was take a respectable piece of legislation like the RFRA and mold it into the Brock Lesnar of guard dogs when it comes to LGBT rights! Then you have the audacity of telling everyone “they just don’t understand” when people call you out on it.
Now I’m not going to call Gov. Pence an “asshole” here, but the amount of shit coming from him this week, well… it has to make you wonder.
(Photo Credit: Twitter, Google Images, Washington Post, Wikipedia)