Indiana threatens gay rights with new law

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Amelia Smith, Columnist

 

Recently, Indiana passed a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Normally, I’d consider religious freedom a positive aspect of our society. But the Indiana RFRA isn’t about religious freedom when it comes to its goals. The Indiana RFRA enables discrimination, simple as that.

In Indiana, there is no non-discrimination law that protects members of the LGBTA+ community in education, employment and housing. The new act is worded to say that the government cannot burden a person’s ability to follow religious beliefs. This also includes for-profit businesses, a group that has typically been excluded from similar RFRAs in other states.

What the new act does is give companies legal defense to refuse employment, housing and goods and services based on people’s sexual orientation. I want this to be clear – companies are allowed, under this act, to refuse to serve people because they disagree, religiously, with that person’s sexual orientation.

What I find shocking about this is that we can all look back at a time when skin color could determine where people were welcome to shop, live or get an education, and we can point to that situation as clearly wrong. But somehow, in the year 2015, we replace skin color with sexual orientation and we’re willing to create laws that defend discrimination against it.

How can we deny that this law is doing anything but placing people who identify outside of the heterosexual norm into second-class citizenship?

You can object to people’s sexual orientation based upon your religious doctrine. That’s an opinion. People can debate whether it is right or wrong, but in the end an opinion is a personal belief. What that objection should not do is base an ability to deny these people equal access to everyday life.

There’s a defense of Indiana’s RFRA floating around saying that really, the act is inconsequential because discrimination lawsuits can still be won and businesses probably won’t change their everyday behavior towards customers. Even if this is true, I think it ignores the danger of setting a precedent with this law. We need to be aware of how passing this act can be used as a defense of future laws.

Even if the effects of Indiana’s RFRA are not noticeable in everyday life, it does not change that the law is fundamentally morally wrong at the core and deserving of outrage.

The backlash against Indiana’s government has been severe. From celebrities like George Takei calling for a boycott of the state to the National Collegiate Athletic Association releasing statements of concern and even some voices against hosting the Final Four in Indiana cities, people across the country are standing up for basic equality.

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray have made the decision to not allow state-funded travel to Indiana.

I urge all of you to also put pressure on Indiana – and particularly Governor Mike Pence – that this law is unacceptable. If you can, think about boycotting Indiana. Speak up on Twitter. Educate yourself on the issue. This is a heinous act that cannot be allowed to slide.