Indiana Republican lawmakers overhauled their week-old religious freedom law Thursday with a follow-up measure intended to ease concerns driven by businesses that it could lead to discrimination. Gov. Mike Pence then signed it into law. The state has now enacted protections based on sexual orientation for the first time in their history. The changes appear to have dampened down some of the criticism but it doesn’t accomplish what the law’s critics wanted most: Adding sexual orientation to the list of categories protected by Indiana’s anti-discrimination law.
So, with this signing Pence and lawmakers have pissed off social conservative activists and there is a bigger fight brewing next year over expanding Indiana’s anti-discrimination law to cover gays and lesbians. But despite last-minute lobbying from to get Pence to veto the fix, the governor signed it last night. Yay!
“In the midst of this furious debate, I have prayed earnestly for wisdom and compassion, and I have felt the prayers of people across this state and across this nation. For that I will be forever grateful. There will be some who think this legislation goes too far and some who think it does not go far enough, but as governor I must always put the interest of our state first and ask myself every day, ‘What is best for Indiana?’ I believe resolving this controversy and making clear that every person feels welcome and respected in our state is best for Indiana.”
Indiana’s rush to change its controversial law comes as GOP governors in North Carolina and Georgia back away from similar proposals there.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who just days ago said he was rejecting the first version of a religious freedom bill that landed on his desk, got the changes he wanted, signing into law Thursday afternoon a religious freedom measure that lawmakers there had revamped this week so that it’s identical to the federal law. Hutchinson said:
“I know it’s been a contentious debate. We resolved it in an Arkansas way and in the right way for our country and for the people of Arkansas.”
Social conservatives are raking lawmakers over the coals for walking away from what they saw as a crucial protection for “Christian” businesses that did not want to provide services to the LGBT community. Sounds SO Christian, doesn’t it, and in fact many churches have condemned the idea. Eric Miller, the (dick) head of Advance America, a powerful lobbyist, said on his website:
“Among the things that will happen, Christian bakers, florists and photographers would now be forced by the government to participate in a homosexual wedding or else they would be punished by the government! That’s not right!”
Something’s not right in that sentence, that’s for sure. Katie Blair, the head of Freedom Indiana, a group that lobbies against anti-LGBT measures and is funded by several of Indiana’s largest businesses, said:
“Today, the harm has been lessened, but we have not reached the day when LGBT Hoosiers can be assured that they can live their lives with freedom from discrimination.”
SEE! Hashtags DO work. Indiana and Arkansas saw their states getting slammed and losing tourism dollars so they changed. For those who said that the LGBT community should “chill out” and be less “loud” about this issue, I’d like to coin a phrase, kids: ”
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease!”