Indiana legalizes “straights only” economic discrimination

Yesterday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a purportedly anti-discrimination bill into law that legalizes discrimination against LGBT consumers.

Senate Bill 101, also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, prohibits the government from unnecessarily burdening anyone’s ability to exercise their religious beliefs. Seemingly forgetting that this protection already exists, as established under the First Amendment, the bill can be more accurately described as establishing a “right to discriminate” in Indiana — one in which businesses can refuse service to LGBT customers.

As far as the bill’s religious justifications are concerned, I’m skeptical. Where in the Bible does it say that you shouldn’t let the gays eat cake? If conservatives were really serious about protecting the religious’ right to freely exercise their beliefs, then more of them would be behind California’s “kill the gays” ballot initiative.

Moreover, it isn’t as if religious liberty is under attack in Indiana. When pressed by a conservative radio host as to whether there were any specific cases of religious discrimination that prompted the law, Governor Pence came up empty:

Either way, businesses reserving the right to refuse service to certain groups of people is nothing new. We know how this story goes, and we know how it ends. That religious conservatives are all of a sudden discovering the language of identity politics — seeking to carve out protected status of their own as their cultural hegemony erodes — is only further indication that this battle of the American culture wars is ending, and they’re losing.

Indiana is the 20th state to enact religious freedom discrimination legislation, as many states have sought a consolation prize after losing marriage equality case after marriage equality case in the courts. Indiana faced particular embarrassment last year, when Reagan-appointed Judge Richard Posner issued an ungodly, comprehensive destruction of their argument to uphold their same-sex marriage ban in his majority opinion that overturned it.

And it is already facing further embarrassment in the wake of this new legislation. Major public figures, from NCAA President Mark Emmert to author John Green, have all spoken out against the bill (NCAA basketball’s Final Four and John Green both currently reside in Indianapolis). Salesforce founder Marc Benioff has gone as far as to cancel all company programs that require employees to travel to Indiana. The state’s largest convention, GenCon, has also threatened to move their convention to another state in light of the bill’s passage.

All of this proving, once again, that discrimination is bad business.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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