After one Indiana business proved Governor Mike Pence to be a liar when he claimed the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act would not allow discrimination, state legislators (finally) announced that they will be adding non-discrimination language that explicitly protects the LGBT community.
On Thursday morning, legislators unveiled language that clarifies “that the new ‘religious freedom’ law does not authorize a provider — including businesses or individuals — to refuse to offer or provide its services, facilities, goods, or public accommodation to any member of the public based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, or military service,” according to the Indy Star. Language was added late Wednesday that would also add protections in housing and employment.
Churches and nonprofit organizations (and affiliated schools) are free to discriminate even after the protections are in place, however, as they are exempt from the definition of “provider” — so Christians will still have arenas in which they can wage their short-sighted and hateful ideological war against equality.
Even though churches, nonprofits, and some schools are still free to practice their bigotry, the deeply conservative American Family Association is bitter about the changes to the law.
“At this very moment, the Indiana Senate is considering ‘water-down’ language to the recently passed and pro-religious-liberty bill, Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” AFA’s Micah Clark said in an e-mail to supporters of the Right to Discriminate legislation. “Homosexual activists are demanding Christian business owners in Indiana be forced to compromise their faith.”
“Among the things that will happen, Christian bakers, florists and photographers would now be forced by the government to participate in a homosexual wedding or else they would be punished by the government!” Advance America complained in a blog post announcing that the legislature is “about to destroy religious freedom” in the Hoosier state. “That’s not right!”
At the same time, opponents of the law remain displeased. Kate Blair, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, said in a statement:
“We understand that lawmakers are working to ‘fix’ the Indiana RFRA that has done so much harm to Indiana over the past week, but we want to make it clear that we need full protection from discrimination against all LGBT Hoosiers across the state and a guarantee that this RFRA cannot be used to undermine any nondiscrimination protections. According to current media reports, the proposal being considered falls far short of these principles, leaving the door wide open for discrimination.”
While the “fix” is a good start, it is unclear if it will reverse damages the legislation has caused to the state. The new language was unable to stop the Disciples of Christ from following through with its promise to relocate its 2017 convention away from Indianapolis because of the “religious freedom” law.
Other big-money events and businesses have also shied away from Indiana as a result of the law’s passage, and it can not be certain that any of them will reverse course.
“Is the damage able to be turned back?” Republican Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma asked. “That remains to be seen.” It may be too little, too late, but that’s the price one pays for hate-mongering in this day and age.
Featured Image via Blue Nation Review
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.