License to Discriminate- RFRA

30 03 2015

rfra signingThis week there has been a tsunami of media attention on the state of Indiana. But not the good kind. No, the Final Four is still days away; Gen Con is months away (and apparently stuck in a 5 year contract to stay here); yet the streets are filled with people who are all riled up. We are getting national attention, not for any of the major events that Indianapolis hosts every year, but for good ole’ fashioned Hoosier discrimination.

On Thursday, Governor Mike Pence signed into law a bill titled the ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act.’ This bill has been highly criticized for legalizing discrimination against all gay people who live in, work in, or visit the state of Indiana. In advance of Pence’s private ceremony to sign the new law onto the books, multiple major Indiana companies stated their clear opposition to this, citing its discriminatory nature, and how it would hurt their ability to conduct business and recruit new talent to live in a state with this environment.

Salesforce-300x251Companies like Eli Lilly, Cummins, and the Indy Chamber were vocal about their opposition. Since Pence made the RFRA law, hundreds of others, nationwide, have raised their voices, and the repercussions of the RFRA are just starting to swell. Gen Con has threatened to relocate their massive annual convention. Angie’s List has cancelled plans for their $40M expansion, which means 1000 Indiana jobs lost. The Mayor of San Francisco has banned any business travel to our state. And CEOs of major corporations like Salesforce and Apple are publicly shunning us for our step backwards into the previous century.

Glaad1Social media has been blowing up over this, with people trying to understand the true implications of this law. Pence denies that the bill has anything to do with gay people, despite the anti-gay collaborators that stood close by his side during the private signing ceremony on March 26th, 2015.

I’ve found myself repeatedly clarifying details on post, after repost. In fact, I’ve even created this handy flow chart to help clarify what the RFRA law now allows.

Indiana Discrimination flow chart

Here’s the deal:

It’s not about gay wedding cakes. Yes, there have been some highly publicized lawsuits in the news where bakers discriminate against gay couples because they refuse to bake them a cake. And, no, I wouldn’t want them baking my cake anyways. I’d much rather have my deserts baked with LOVE, not hate. The same bakery probably refuses to bake cakes for interracial couples too.

rfra mapIt’s not about the RFRA. This is only a symptom of a larger problem. The reality is, this religious freedom law allows anyone to refuse services to anybody based on conflicts with their personal religion. in theory, this would mean that I could refuse to sell coffee to a Jew, because I’m Christian. Or deny childcare to a woman because she’s wearing pants, which is not allowed in the Mormon church. And why not kick out the veteran who is missing his legs, because it’s scaring the children in my diner, and that goes against my beliefs too? The problem is, THOSE acts, while technically allowed by the RFRA, are DISALLOWED by the state constitution’s Civil Rights rules.

But other states have it too, right? Sure, but here’s the difference: Most of those other states enacted these RFRA-eque laws in 1993 or soon thereafter. BUT, most of those states have also amended the civil rights definitions to include sexual orientation, protecting LGB citizens from discrimination.

We MUST amend the State’s Civil Rights definition. Indiana’s Civil Rights language identifies protected classes, in order to prevent discrimination. However, at least in this state, there is a gaping hole where ‘sexual orientation’ belongs, which enables discrimination.

It is the public policy of the state to provide all of its citizens equal opportunity for education, employment, access to public conveniences and accommodations, and acquisition through purchase or rental of real property, including but not limited to housing, and to eliminate segregation or separation based solely on race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin or ancestry, since such segregation is an impediment to equal opportunity. Equal education and employment opportunities and equal access to and use of public accommodations and equal opportunity for acquisition of real property are hereby declared to be civil rights.

6a00d83451c45669e2016766065729970b-550wiSo, despite my religious freedom, I STILL cannot discriminate or deny service to anybody on the basis of those characteristics identified in the civil rights language. The only group excluded is LGBTQ. And THAT is why this law is being interpreted as specifically targeting this group. In an interview on ABC last weekend, Pence refused to address the civil rights definition. And so we stand, united to fight against this law. Determined to claw our way back to the 21st century.

round_car_magnetThe Irony? Pence is marketing the State of Indiana with the slogan of “Open for Business.” Yet his actions are driving companies away, generating a significant negative impact statewide. Both individuals and companies are boycotting Indiana, which harms even those businesses and communities that adamantly opposed the RFRA. It hurts all of us, and especially Indianapolis. I am fearful of the long-term effect that this will have on my local economy, and can only hope for enough upheaval to drive permanent change in our government, before I am driven to move someplace else.

Here in Indiana, we are working hard to repeal this discriminatory law. It won’t be easy. In the meantime, we are finding ways to show that Pence does not represent our entire state. Shop where you KNOW businesses aren’t bigots.

THE SOLUTION! The next steps MUST include an amendment to our Civil Rights protection clause. I am working with my district representative, my employer, and Indy Chamber to rally support for a bill to fix this problem, once and for all. Indianapolis’ Mayor Ballard is in full support of this long-awaited change! Our anti-discrimination language must be more robust to protect those who are discriminated against. We need to change this:

“race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disabilities, ancestry”

to something more along the lines of this (courtesy of Purdue University):

“on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, genetic information, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, or status as a veteran.”

Call or email your representative today to ask for change.



One response

22 06 2017
D.C. Pride | Travel Grrrls

[…] in 2015 with his rushed decision to try to institutionalize a religious freedom to discriminate (RFRA), before the business communities outcry forced him to repeal the anti-LGBT law. Our state lost over […]


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