WASHINGTON, April 1, 2015 – Does Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) permit discrimination against people who identify as LBGT, as many gay activist organizations and gay rights supporters are insisting?
Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence says no. As reported by Fox News. Gov. Pence commented on the new law Sunday and said that the legislation is an effort to protect religious freedoms, it “is not about discrimination.”
In fact the governor stressed on ABC’s “This Week” that the new Indiana law is in line with the federal law signed by President Clinton in 1993.
The law comes on the heels of federal legislation, like the Affordable Care Act, which many feel attempts to marginalize individual and organizational religious-based beliefs. Pence commented that the law does not discriminate but instead will expand individual rights for those who feel that any level of government has impinged on their personal religious rights.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer sponsored the 1993 federal law while he was in the House of Representatives, where it passed unanimously. It sailed through the Senate by a 97-3 vote, according to the Weekly Standard.
It appears now that the New York senator has developed a form of political amnesia; he has become one of the vocal opponents to the Indiana bill.
The Indiana Religious Restoration Freedom Act provides:
“Religious freedom restoration act. Provides that a state or local government action may not substantially burden a person’s right to the exercise of religion unless it is demonstrated that applying the burden to the person’s exercise of religion is: (1) essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and (2) the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest.
“Provides that a person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a state or local government action may assert the burden as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the state or a political subdivision of the state is a party to the judicial proceeding. Allows a person who asserts a burden as a claim or defense to obtain appropriate relief, including: (1) injunctive relief; (2) declaratory relief; (3) compensatory damages; and (4) recovery of court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.”
At the core of the opposition has been outrage over the possibility that the new law will infringe upon the rights of gays, lesbians and other similarly situated groups. Gay rights groups feel they have an absolute entitlement to be served by a private citizen who is a baker or photographer — someone whose job involves performance — even if the citizen opposes their lifestyle on religious grounds.
It is still unclear whether this type of occurrence would be protected by the legislation.
The furor over the RFRA has resulted in a hashtag #boycottindiana appearing on social media and criticism boiling over from some businesses around America. Fox News reports that Angie’s List, a consumer review service that had promised to add a thousand new jobs to the state has indicated it will suspend its planned Indianapolis expansion because of the new religious protection law.
There are 19 states that have passed similar legislation, and there have not been any reported waves of discriminatory practices waged against lesbian and gay individuals. The Indiana law is slated to go into effect in July.
The stalking horse for many gay-rights groups appears to be the possibility that opponents of same-sex marriage may be able to use this as an opportunity to approve state-sanctioned discrimination. Interestingly enough, the Indiana law butts against the U.S. Supreme Court’s pending decision on the validity of same-sex marriage and the possible impact on state laws.
One more immediate impact on the state of Indiana is the negative clamoring of individuals like actors Ashton Kutcher and Miley Cyrus, who more than likely have not read the Indiana law and are quite possibly perfectly satisfied with the notion that ignorance is bliss.
They have called for a boycott while the NCAA has expressed concern about holding events there in the future, even though the men’s Final Four will be held in Indianapolis, according to Fox News.
The Indiana RFRA may be one of the political fuses to ignite the upcoming 2016 presidential election cycle and possibly may determine the outcome of that race.