Indiana Governor Signs Anti-Gay “Religious Freedom Act,” Pisses Everybody Off

feature image via destructoid


This morning, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signed Senate Bill 101 into law in a private ceremony, surrounded by nuns:

SB 101 is a “religious freedom” law that “could allow business owners to refuse services to same-sex couples.” In other words, it makes it legal for homophobic assholes to let their homophobic asshole flag fly and make all their homophobic asshole dreams come true. In official complicated words, the law does this:

Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. Provides a procedure for remedying a violation. Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer.

The Republican-controlled house passed the measure with a 63-31 vote on Monday. This morning, 75-80 religious leaders, conservative lobbyists and “supportive lawmakers” joined the governor in the signing ceremony. After signing, Mike Pence informed the press that everybody is freaking out over nothing:

“This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it. In fact, it does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved. For more than twenty years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana.”

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane begs to differ:

“Although not unexpected, it is still extremely disappointing that Governor Pence endorses this out-of- touch, discriminatory legislation. Not only is this law unnecessary, it unfortunately has already portrayed our state as intolerant, unfriendly, and backwards; things which I believe most Hoosiers reject.”

It seems there’s been a larger push for these laws in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision. Jerks were inspired by the success of other jerks to pursue their own jerky agendas — and it’s working.

The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indiana and hosts its Final Four in Indianapolis every four years, has spoken out against the bill. NCAA president Mark Emmert told the press:

“The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events. We are especially concerned how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes are competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

Mark Benioff, CEO of cloud computing company Salesforce, made an announcement this morning that he intended to “dramatically decrease” his investment in Indiana, saying on twitter that “today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination.” Salesforce Marketing Cloud (formerly ExactTarget) is headquartered in Indianapolis. On twitter, Benioff called on other CEOs of the Tech Industry to “pay attn to what is happening in IN & how it will impact your employees and customers.”

Clear Software CEO Jon Gilman penned a letter, signed by the CEOs of CloudOne, Salesvue, LeadJen, Lesson.ly and, obviously, Salesforce, which was delivered to the Governor at 8 a.m. this morning. It read, in part:

“As leaders of technology companies, we not only disagree with this legislation on a personal level, but the RFRA will adversely impact our ability to recruit and retain the best and the brightest talent in the technology sector. Technology professionals are by their nature very progressive, and backward-looking legislation such as the RFRA will make the state of Indiana a less appealing place to live and work.”

Tech leaders and sports leagues aren’t the only ones threatening to pull business form the state. Gen Con, Indianapolis’s largest convention in attendance and economic impact, has threatened to move their event somewhere nicer to gay people if the bill isn’t vetoed. CEO Adrian Swartout sent a letter to Pence saying:

“Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state’s economy, and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years…. Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds. We are happy to provide an environment that welcomes all, and the wide-ranging diversity of our attendees has become a key element to the success and growth of our convention.”

Over 56,000 people attend the gaming convention, touted as “the original, longest-running, best attended gaming attention in the world,” bringing $50 million to the local economy.

Gen Con via doingindy

Gen Con via doingindy

Visit Indy, Indianapolis’s tourism bureau, has been speaking out against the bill from the get-go, citing concerns that “there could be a misperception with this bill that doesn’t paint a picture of being a warm, welcoming, hospitable place. It doesn’t align with the brand that is Indianapolis.” Visit Indy Spokesman Chris Gahl told The USA Today that an annual music festival has also already threatened to leave the city. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard agrees that this measure is a disgrace to Indiana, arguing that “I don’t believe this legislation truly represents our state or our capital city. Indianapolis strives to be a welcoming place that attracts businesses, conventions, visitors and residents.”

The Disciples of Christ had also threatened to cancel their 2017 Indianapolis convention, which is expected to bring $5.9 million to Indianapolis, if the Governor chooses to sign the bill. “Our perspective is that hate and bigotry wrapped in religious freedom is still hate and bigotry,” said The Disciples of Christ associate general minister Todd Adams. The letter they sent to the governor noted that “we are particularly sensitive to the values of the One we follow — one who sat at (the) table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all.”

Others who have spoken out include Indianapolis-based author John Green (The Fault In Our Stars), MMA fighter and former Purdue football player Matt Mitrione, NBA player Jason Collins and actor George Takei.

In an op-ed in the Lafayette Journal & Courier, Reverend Steve Viars informed the public that everything is totally fine and this bill has no negative implications whatsoever for anybody. “Every group has its lunatic fringe. There are a few religious people seeking unreasonable accommodations to their theological beliefs, and there are a few liberals seeking to stifle religious expression wherever it’s found,” he wrote, before telling a story about an “activist from Chicago” who wanted to move into his faith-based apartment community and, when told the community had no vacant units, stated that “he and his boyfriend from Washington D.C., were coming to town the following week anyway and insisted that we show him a residence.”

“Of course they had no interest in actually living at our faith-based covenant community,” Viars concluded. “They just wanted to bully our female volunteer and pick a fight.” It’s unclear how Viars drew that conclusion, what that story has to do with this law or how, if the actual reason for the prospective tenant’s rejection was (as Viars claims) a lack of vacant units, this law could’ve protected him from these unpleasant phone calls. Viars claimed the law will “serve as a helpful teacher,” “function as a civilizing moderator,” and “act as a clarifying arbitrator.” His explanations of those abstract concepts were, in my opinion, too insufficient to attempt to tackle here.

Indianapolis Gay Pride Parade, June 2014 (photograph by  Chris T Pehlivan)

Indianapolis Gay Pride Parade, June 2014 (photograph by Chris T Pehlivan / shutterstock )

But is the measure largely symbolic? 19 other states have laws like this on the books, after all. Daniel Conkle, IU Maurer School of Law professor, apparently told lawmakers that “to date there has been no successful claim that I’m aware of anywhere in the country, even by a wedding vendor who asserts a religious objection, to provide services to a wedding.” That didn’t stop Arizona governor Jan Brewer from vetoeing a similar bill in Arizona last year, though, after pressure from local businesses.

Retired Bishop Gene Robinson wrote in The Daily Beast that this law “would open the floodgates for citizens/corporations to exempt themselves from all kinds of laws, merely by claiming that it violates their religious beliefs.” He mentions an anesthesiologist who refsused to anesthetize an abortion patient and raises the hypothetical situations of a pharmacist refusing to dispense birth control or Truvada (“the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug used by gay men (and others) to lessen their risk for being infected with HIV”).

If nothing else, this law has already and will continue to suck up time and resources from a government with much more important fish to fry. Its application is so fuzzy that any cases that make it to the court because of it are likely to be giant headaches with minimal positive impact on anybody involved. “My goodness, can Indiana Republicans just get past an anger over gays and lesbians that borders on the obsessive?” asks Matthew Tully in The Lafayette Journal-Courier . “After losing their war over same-sex marriage last year, Statehouse Republicans have joined a national conservative effort to create a crisis that doesn’t exist.” He concludes: “It doesn’t matter whether this new law is limited in scope. The fact that it will be a law at all is shameful. And it’s going to hurt Indiana… if the legislature were trying to reinforce Indiana’s image as a backwater, it couldn’t have done better than this.”

I keep remembering this thing my now-girlfriend said to me last summer about why she’d left Indiana in the first place. We were hiking in the Oakland hills, traipsing paths that offered panoramic views of one of the most LGBT-friendly and downright gorgeous geographical areas in the country. I was saying how even though I’m not in love with California, I am in love with the scenery — the ocean, the mountains, the weather. She insisted that for her, no state would ever be as beautiful as Indiana. I asked why she’d left, then, and her response was something like, “how long can you keep on wanting a place that doesn’t want you back?”

The legalization of same-sex marriage this past year was a big step towards making Indiana more welcoming to its LGBTQ residents. But even if things are getting better for residents of cities like Bloomington and Indianapolis, there’s a huge swath of the state where LGBTQ folks don’t feel safe, let alone comfortable, being who they are. We can only hope that the swelling support for Indiana’s LGBTQ community and the opposition to this law from the business community will make some impact. The queers of Indiana deserve a home that wants them back. We all do.

Brown County State Park, Indiana

Brown County State Park, Indiana

 


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Riese is the 36-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2535 articles for us.

60 Comments

  1. I feel similarly to your girfriend. I live in Indiana but really wish I didn’t. The only reason I’m still here is because all of my family is here but as soon as my grandmother dies I’m leaving. My mother wants out of this place too. I hope all these conventions make good on their threats to leave and it does damage the economy. Many businesses here have made it clear to the Governor that is a bad idea, even the Mayor, but he’s still going along with it anyway. He deserves all the shit he gets after this. I don’t personally know anybody in my circle who actually likes Mike Pence. I can’t wait for him to leave office.

    • I don’t think you realize where you are commenting, but this a site dedicated to queer women and trans folks. The term normal is OFFENSIVE to me(and many others here) as a trans person. Because I’m pretty sure I am normal(well reasonably normal, cause lets face it we all have quirks), but if I was in Indiana I sure as hell would not be celebrating this. I’m also sure my fellow Jews wouldn’t be too happy either. So, please take normal out of your vernacular when referring to the LGBTQA community.

    • Had to read this comment like four times before I understood it, I didn’t realize some idiot had come onto a lesb website to tell us we are abnormal cartoons. this must be pretty embarrassing for you, rick

      what a goof.

      • Oh he knows where he is. He’s purposefully being an asshole in the hopes that he’s somehow hurt our feelings over the internet. Troll logic will never make sense so don’t waste your time responding to him.

        • Children are humans. Not cookies. God-fearing people know what cannibalism is bad. Please stop baking cookie children. Just send them over to Angelina Jolie if you can’t raise them.

          Also: anyone who thinks being a Looney Tune or being a ‘transient’ is Bad seriously needs to confess to a bishop. And I mean AT Inc.

    • Hi, Rick – can I call you Ricky? Rick Astley, even? Just a head’s up – as someone who identifies as a ‘looney toon’ and also a ‘looney goon’ and even really ‘Gay’ as well – I can assuredly tell you this bill has passed off many more than just my crowed. In fact, may business owners and CEO’s and HBIC’s and stakeholders and shareholders and even just the people who fork over the moolah are also protesting that. Even with your choice of adding a fun game of Mad Libs to your comment, I think we also need to look at the facts – which is, as stated, kinda pissed the looney toon Everybody crowd, ya feel me?

          • “there’s a sex offender in my town, do you want to give her an award too?”

            Dude. That is the WORST PICC UP LINE Ever. I just tried it on the cute butch I ran into from work. She ran like crazy from me. I am never taking dating tips from you again. NEVER!

            SO if you’re trying to meet someone in this site – – I’m guessing YOU Are the sex offender – I suggest a change in tone. Something sweeter and more romantic would do.

            What brought you to this site? Bad break up, hon? Is that the sound of the closet beckoning you, “Jackie, Jackie. Come back inside!”

    • This comment is wrong on so many levels. For one, I am NOT a Mexican Mouse who runs faster than the speed of light. I am a talking duck with anger management issues who loves wearing sailor outfits.

      Number two: this is not avoiceformen.com or the Westboro Baptist Website. You seem to have lost your way, like the lost little lamb that you are, and ‘accidentally’ stumbled into this rainbow abyss known as Autostraddle.

      Finally, let me tell you that ‘religious freedom’ largely involves impartiality towards religious practices. While it does involve the obligation of the State to ‘protect’ the right to worship of her citizens (and NOT to worhsip as well), it’s also incumbent upon the Government to protect the ‘separation of Church and State’ so deeply enshrined in the First Ammendment.

      So be off with your bigoted bullcrap.

      Sincerely.

      Arriba Arriba Andale Andale!

    • Poor Rick was obviously psychologically scarred in his youth by this scene from Space Jam:

      Rick, never give up hope; there are professionals out there who can help you recover from your homophobitis. You too can one day be free of hate, and normal like us.

    • Thanks to each of you for your mature replies to this asshole (please, moderator, forgive me for this affront, my explanation is coming…)

      I did tried to write a reply, a mature one, but I failed miserably. It was something like this:

      [word]… insult… [word] [word]… insult… insult… insult… [read the comment once again]… [word]… insult… insult… insult…insult… insult… insult…insult… insult… insult…

      I just gave up.

  2. Can I vent for a second? Pence and our last govenor Mitch Daniels have been so, so terrible. I’m also a huge gay-mer and I swear to glob if another one of them tells me that he understands my struggles because he, too, lives an alternative lifestyle and the gaming industry is so great for not supporting this I’m going to write a D&D campaign that awards players with misandry points and punishes them with ally cookies. Your gf has such a fucking huge heart and so much love for this state and it’s ridiculous that the state can’t see that how it’s pushing away some of the best and brightest Hoosiers.

  3. I was born and raised in IN and it hurts to see this happen. The current legislation does not speak for us! I hope everyone comes together and shows that we will not back down without a fight. Show everyone what “Hoosier Hospitality” really is! We do not discriminate, we respect everyone no matter what your denomination,orientation, race or sex is.

    There is more to Indiana than bigotry and corn!!

    • I left my Naptown home almost 10 years ago, and I love visiting and I love my family there. But I could never go back permanently, even less so now that this law has passed. It’s such a horrible representation of the smart, creative, welcoming people who are literally all I’ve ever encountered in Indiana. As an out queer kid, I don’t remember one incident of discrimination. As an out queer adult, I’m sad to see what my home state has become. I truly do not believe that the people of Indiana support this bill – just an egomaniacal governor who will be forgotten in a few years.

  4. Sorry in advance for this… but

    WHAT A HELL IS WRONG WITH YOUR COUNTRY???????!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You have some crazy “lawyer” advocating for the execution of “any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratiffication.”

    Now this sh**.

    By the way, your Supreme Court is a big joke about social issues. Thanks to the Hobby Lobby decision this freedom of religion laws would never dissapear, because this is what I call extrapolate, that ruling it’s the sole reason why this law exists.

    Congratulations, Indiana and welcome to the XIX century…

  5. Hell yeah, Disciples of Christ!

    On a different note, could someone elaborate on the government entity/private person distinction in the law? Is the concern that having a law on the books that affects govt entities could spill over/set a legal precedent for legalizing discrimination enacted by private entities? A lot of these examples concern (doctor vis a vis abortion patient, restaurateur vs. queer customer) don’t actually seem like they are the types of scenarios that would be DIRECTLY regulated by the law.

  6. “She insisted that for her, no state would ever be as beautiful as Indiana. I asked why she’d left, then, and her response was something like, “how long can you keep on wanting a place that doesn’t want you back?””

    These two sentences hit me so hard. There’s nothing as amazing as the unassuming beauty of Indiana and its people. We’re overly polite and eat sugar pie and fry things that god knows shouldn’t be fried and speak with so much schwa and a smattering of yall. We’re kind nosy neighbors and unironic drive-your-tractor-to-school-day friends and strangers that will dig you out of the snow. How can a place that aligns with so many of my values also reject us so deeply? Dreaming for the day that Indiana stops being my star-crossed lover and becomes truly my home.

  7. #RFRA I am not the best at using big words to express myself but here ya go. My response from a raised catholic, small business owning, lesbian,Indiana born and raised, current resident. *steps up on soap box* I am not the best at using big words to express myself but here ya go.
    I love my state,I love being a Hoosier but to hear so much hatred aimed at it, as a whole, due to the actions of some make me sad.
    Instead of hearing business, conventions and celebs say to boycott Indiana, I would rather see them to encourage people to come here. To stand up and be proud of who we are. Show that they will come here and give support to businesses that are open to all.
    Yes, there are some that will use this law to “protect” their businesses. But there are so many, many more that welcome EVERYONE!
    I live in Indiana because both my wife and I have family here. I live here because i love our little “big” capital city feel. I met and fell in love with my wife of 15 years here.
    Yes, discrimination sucks, but I implore those that believe love is love to keep coming to my state. Stand up and show up. Be the better person. Prove that just by living as your true self is something to be proud of here.
    We are all different in this cross roads of America. To me, that is worth staying and shushing the haters!
    love is love. Lets embrace that in our hearts!
    *steps off soap box*

  8. I have to admit I was feeling a disappointed earlier that my favorite gay news sources hadn’t covered this, so I’m glad to see such a well-written comprehensive piece. I had no idea so many states already had this on the books. It’s truly scary what happens when those in power think they’re the victims of a marginalized group. It drives me crazy that religion, which is irrefutably a choice, is a protected class while the lgbt community isn’t.

    There is a dim silver lining my coworker pointed out earlier. While this is absolutely awful and dismaying, it will hopefully help keep the movement towards equality from getting complacent. I feel like a lot of people, especially those not actually part of the community, think that gay rights have won because gay marriage is in a majority of the states. This bill as well as many other legal forms of discrimination against gay people like employment and housing, not to mention the higher rates of teen suicide and homelessness, show there is still a lot of ground to cover.

    For those of you who are in Indiana my heart goes out to you. Check out OpenforBusiness which has been very active on social media in promoting non-discriminatory businesses and will hopefully be posting a list soon.

  9. That photo of Brown county brings back beautiful memories. Indiana has a special place in my heart – even though I grew up in the Pacific NW, I lived in Indiana for 2 years after graduating college, and it’s where I did a lot of growing. This saddens me. I wish the best to all my friends in Indiana. There are a lot of good people there, and I know that equality will ultimately win out, despite setbacks like this.

  10. Okay so converting to Pastafarian or Satanism are not very constructive things to do, but honestly shit like this bill and Asstley and Co. up thread make me want to be very unconstructive.
    Being a hateful shit to people ain’t religious liberty but if they insist…it can be payed back in kind.

  11. I was clicking around on IMDb the other day, and came across a movie called wedding wars. Part on the synopsis was this:

    “What would happen if every gay person in America suddenly went on strike? An argument between two brothers inadvertently triggers the strike, and it’s up to the siblings to solve their differences before the entire country is shut down”

    And I thought, can you imagine if every LGBTQ person, and their supporters had the financial means to afford to strike, and could be safe enough to go on strike and actually see what it does to the country and/or world.

    Then I thought, if every LGBTQ person had the means and safety to be out, and go on strike, they wouldn’t need to.

  12. Ladies it backlash time. This is exactly what people do when they can’t admit that they are wrong and they know it deep down inside. We are winning on the gay marriage front, and those who oppose it know it. They know that the chances of winning that war is a Hale Marry so they are moving to a new battle front before we get there, and they are trying to flank us, because we have to finish what we started or risk losing what we have fought for. It’s a move of desperation and of one who had been defeated but is in denial of it. Many will hold on by the skin of their teeth until the bitter end but time will take care of it. No one believes that they are a bigot and discriminating when they are doing it. Sometimes it takes hind sight to put things in the right perspective to see things as they really are.

  13. Although a wallet can be a powerful weapon, you may need even more powerful weapons.

    When election time comes to Indiana, every citizen, every registered voter, every mildly liberal person, every member of the LGBT community, every person who opposes this law, needs to remember where this crap came from: GOP. And the GOP needs to be politically knock down.

    If you don’t want to, there’s no need to compromise too much with the process, but just go and VOTE.

    Until that day, use your wallet and keep the good fight.

  14. What I don’t understand about these laws is: if you are a business owner & a homophobic asshole, doesn’t being a business owner and making money so you can stay open come first?

    But I tend to have trouble following conservative asshole “logic” so, maybe my liberal brain is just not able to compute their idiotic reasons for being idiots.

    • yeah I mean if the GOP decided to buy scissoring sweatshirts for all its senators I can’t say that our bank account would feel conflicted about accepting that money. YOU GOTS TO ROBIN HOOD IT

  15. I have a story to tell:

    My mom stomped into the dining room this morning.

    “I’ve been thinking about that Indiana law,” she said.

    I turned away from my Cheerios and faced her, still chewing.

    “What if I move to Indiana?” she asked. “What if I start a business? What if I sell wedding cakes? But I ask couples when they come in if they’re having sex. Because pre-marital sex could be against my religion. What if I ask them if they use birth control? Can I refuse to make them a cake then? What if I claim my religion holds that Christians are sinners. Can I refuse to make a cake for any Christian? Or maybe just Catholics.”

    “You could put a sign in the window,” I said. “No gays. No papists. No Italians.” I made sure to pronounce Italians the way my grandma does. ‘Eye-talians.’

    She laughed. “Right! It’s ridiculous. This law is ridiculous.” She shook her head, brows knitting, and snorted. “It makes me so angry.”

    “Me too,” I said.

    The only good thing about these situations is that it reveals how much my parents love and support me. Unlike my grandmother, who claims to support me and yet champions anti-trans* bathroom bills and supposed religious freedom bills, my parents are incensed by these things.

    I’ve never seen my mom as angry as the time a woman sneered at me and tried to force me out of a women’s bathroom when I was fifteen.

  16. Well, from a perspective of a trans girl/lesbian living in Australia, your country’s attitude id really not far off Russia, what the hell is wrong with American politicians?

  17. I’m afraid a lot of my friends in Bloomington and Indy will start thinking about moving away now. Two terribly cold winters in a row and now this. I’ve met so many kind hearted people the 7 years I have lived in this state. Granted I do live in “the gay oasis of Indiana”. The majority of the straight people I’ve met here have been accepting as well. We have got to start standing our ground and start taking the time to vote the correct people in to office. I truly do not believe the majority of the people here wanted this law to pass. I’d hate for people to associate being a Hoosier with being a bigot. There are a lot of petitions going around to recall Pence; but unfortunately it is not possible to recall an elected official in the state of Indiana unless the official breaks the law. We have to make our votes count.

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