Monday, March 30, 2015

My Thoughts on Indiana's RFRA

Disclaimer:  The views and opinions below are mine entirely.  They do not reflect anyone other than myself, including the company I keep and the company I work for.

While I understand everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I'm not trying to force mine onto you, this is my blog.  So if you don't agree with me, feel free to stop reading now.  Hopefully some of this will help to educate you as well, since most of us hear a blurb from the media and make assumptions.

Indiana has been on the news a lot lately because of a bill signed by Gov. Mike Pence that would allow for businesses to refuse service for religious reasons. While the bill is not clear and local government officials are working diligently to "clear up" some of that confusion, the point of the bill itself not only sickens me, but I'm embarrassed to call this state my home.  Indiana:  home of the famous Hoosier Hospitality and a place to openly be a bigot.

What I don't understand is how in the year 2015- we are still creating laws and signing bills that justify discriminating against anyone, as an individual or as a group of people.  While there are many facets of this bill, the focus in the media has been the rights of the LGBT community and how those rights will be greatly affected. It could mean not serving you in a restaurant, a bakery not making you a cake, a grocer not selling you food, a clothing store not letting you buy clothes, a guidance counselor not giving a teenager in need counseling.  All because of your sexual orientation.

One of my best friends, who is beyond hilarious, is a college graduate, is a successful news reporter, loves animals and reptiles, would do anything for you without you asking and has thousands of other great qualities as a human being- also happens to be gay.  It breaks my heart to think that this bullshit bill may stop him from enjoying a burger at a local pub with me BECAUSE HE IS GAY.  How God Damn Ridiculous is that?  How unacceptable is that?  What about my family members who are gay?  What about my many other friends who are gay?  What about YOUR family members and friends who are gay?  I hope that angers you as much as it does me.

My opinion is that everyone should be treated equally.  It doesn't matter your race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.  That notion shouldn't be politically charged.  Maybe I don't understand because I'm not a practicing Christian or Catholic.  But I can tell you right now, that even if I was, I still would disagree with this bill.   Do you remember the phrase: Treat others as you would want to be treated?  What about the Golden Rule-  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  If I remember correctly, this is a biblical quote- Matthew 7:42.  How contradictory.

Hate on people because they are assholes.  Not because they are gay.

Indiana is one of 20 states with a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Not only are there 20 states, but did you realize that the federal government itself has something similar to what was just passed in Indiana?  While it seems, based on the media coverage, that Indiana is the only state with a bill like this, I assure you, it is not.

Other states with Religious Freedom Restoration Acts:
Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia

In 1993, President Clinton signed a federal RFRA, prohibiting the government from "substantially burdening" individuals' exercise of religion unless it is for a "compelling government interest" and is doing so in the least restrictive means.  How you liking him now?  "He's the greatest President of our Generation."  Was he, now that you know that fun fact?

Currently there are also an additional 13 states, including Georgia, that are considering their own RFRA legislation.  If they all pass, that will be 33 out of 50 states.  Think of that, my friends.

The Indiana religious freedom law says the government cannot intrude on a person's religious liberty unless it can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden and do so in the least restrictive way.    To some this bill is legalizing discrimination, to others it is protecting their religious rights.

In Indianapolis and a dozen other cities in Indiana, there are local nondiscrimination laws that specifically protect LGBT in employment, housing, education and public accommodation, which include business transactions.  But in much of Indiana there is no such protection.  I think one of the MANY concerns with this bill is that it would allow people to start challenging the local laws.  The situation here- which has no statewide law protecting gays and lesbians, but has local laws that do- which one trumps the other, the local laws protecting LGBT rights or the statewide RFRA?

I know some of you have seen me share news articles of conventions or companies pulling out of Indiana and some of you have posted similar.  I am in complete agreement with them- hit this state in the pocket and see how quickly this bill goes away.  Indianapolis is one of the biggest (if not the biggest- depending on the year) convention cities in the country.  We are home to many national and professional sporting teams and organizations.  What will the state do if they relocate?  What about the business leaders who are calling for boycotts?  The labor union AFSCME announced today that it is moving its 2015 Women’s Conference out of Indianapolis in October, in protest of the RFRA that could open the door to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Will this change Pence's mind on the LGBT community?  What I know is that if I see any business pulling the religion card and refusing to serve an individual who happens to be gay, they will no longer receive my business.  Again.  Ever. I would hope you all would do the same.

SNL's Weekend Update touched on this last week.  Joking about how these businesses would have to put a sign in their window to show they supported the RFRA, they showed a Going Out Of Business sign.  Fingers crossed, America.  Fingers crossed.

And if the whole discriminating again gays isn't enough for you- here are a few more things this bill would allow:

  • Child Welfare – not having to take a background check to work in a day care.  Child molesters anyone?
  • Domestic Violence – a man justifying beating his wife and/or children because his religion teaches him it's his duty to discipline them as he sees fit.  
  • Public Safety –a police officer refusing to protect a synagogue or mosque, even while ON DUTY.  
RFRA allows individuals to ignore any law they deem to conflict with their religious beliefs.