Indiana Governor, Mike Pence made his mark on the history books this past Thursday when he signed into law a controversial bill that would allow businesses and other professional entities to refuse service to gay and lesbians on the grounds of religious beliefs. The new law makes Indiana the first state in the country to enact such a change and once signed, immediately seemed to draw a line down the middle of the nation pitting LGBT civil rights on one side and the right to religious freedom on the other side.
The issue has sparked extensive debates with people supporting both sides of the issue. Comments have been flooding in from a number of different industries weighing in with their personal viewpoint on the controversy. While the issue remains to be an Indiana one, people from all over the country are paying keen interest to the developments as they fully expect the issue to spread across the country like a wildfire. In order for us to get a full grasp of the growing debate behind the heated arguments, it is necessary for us to get a full understanding of what’s involved with the new law and how it will impact everyone when it goes into effect.
Understanding the New Law
The new law, supported by the proponents of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, holds the position that the state government would not be permitted to compel its citizens to act in ways that would be contrary to their religious beliefs. Many argue that the new law is no different than many other state laws already passed without controversy and that the language reflects the same argument as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law in 1993 by then Illinois Senator, Barack Obama. However, there are others that point out that Indiana’s new law has some glaring differences that many are failing to recognize.
The most prominent difference they point out is in Section 9 where it defines a “person” as not just a single individual but could also be an organization, partnership, LLC, corporation, company, firm, church, religious society, or any other entity. This “person” could claim his religious rights are violated if he or she is forced to conduct business or other interactions with the lesbian and gay community by simply claiming the action to be a burden; therefore giving them the right to refuse services.
They point out that every other act that supports religious freedom places the individual citizen against businesses and organizations. By Section 9 including these professional entities as individuals, they claim that it changes the whole landscape of the law. In addition, the new Indiana law is the only legislation to date that incorporates disputes that can also arise between private citizens. Many feel that this will cause a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding. As Indiana trial lawyer, Matt Anderson points out, the new law is…
“more broadly written than its federal and state predecessors” and opens up “the path of least resistance among its species to have a court adjudicate it in a manner that could ultimately be used to discriminate…”
In short, many legal professionals feel that the language is so broadly written it can apply to just about any individual or entity and leave the door open to a host of scenarios where the freedom to discriminate against the gay community is legally protected.
Those Weighing in on the Subject
Clearly, the issue is one that is not going to go away any time soon. As the word continues to spread, more and more people are weighing in on the subject from celebrities, to landlords, small businesses, large corporations, and everything in between. The fear is that those who plan to stand on their rights of religious freedom will find ways to refuse service to the Gay community.
LGBT advocate, George Takei commented and encouraged his followers to boycott the states gaming convention.
Adrian Swartout, owner of Gen Con LLC, along with other business owners are considering refusing to conduct any business in Indiana.
Cyd Zeiegler of Outsports.com, also pointed out that the National Football League is contemplating preventing the city from hosting any Super Bowls games in the future.
Even officials from other states are weighing in and giving their viewpoint about the potential impact of the new bill. Some even calling it “legally sanctioned discrimination.” Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco commented that his city would no longer pay for employees to travel to Indiana for any business that is “not absolutely essential to health and safety.”
And Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook has taken a stand against the new Indiana legislation stating that the new laws are “very dangerous and contrary to America’s founding principles.”
It is obvious that the uprising of opposition against Indiana’s new law will be in debate for quite some time. It basically pits two separate civil rights groups against each other and forces the law to determine which side’s rights should have precedence. The issues raised on this particular topic will clearly be far reaching over the coming months as more issues come to the fore.
As of now, Pence is holding firm on his position, citing the controversy that arose of President Obama’s health care bill when it was first signed into law. It immediately sparked a lawsuit from Hobby Lobby, which claimed that being forced to use employee health plans to cover birth control was also an infringement on their religious freedom.
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Indiana and the other 18 states that have similar acts on their books waiting to be signed. Obviously, the controversy over gay rights did not start with this new law nor will it be resolved here either.
For Pence, however, the issue could ring a death knell for his possible presidential bid he has been contemplating. As the nation continues to take sides on the issue, his position for the time, seems to be looking just a bit bleak as a result of his decision to enact this new law.