If you’re gay, non-Christian, non-Caucasian, or could just be assumed to hold any of those or other minority statuses, you probably want to stay far away from Indiana. On March 23, and with a 63-31 vote, the Hoosier State’s legislature passed a controversial bill that now legalizes discrimination.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows businesses to refuse service to anyone due to beliefs and differences in faith, and which that business itself gets to determine. It allows individuals to cite religious beliefs as defense in lawsuits, as well. And when it comes to employment, the Act “prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer.” The Act also overrules any existing anti-discrimination laws that are already present in Indiana cities.
It had little public support, however, and major employers in Indiana publicly opposed the bill, as well, as did the state’s Chamber of Commerce. Smaller private companies along with citizens of strict faiths were the only proponents.
The soon-to-be-law bill has a homophobic foundation, Huffington Post recently reported, and with original intentions of allowing businesses to refuse to serve and hire members of the gay and lesbian community based on religious opposition. The discrimination now allowed by the Act could extend far beyond the LGBT community, however, opponents say.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, the loosely-worded law will allow one’s religious beliefs to interfere with others’ rights. For example, a religious pharmacist could legally refuse to fill a prescription for birth control medication. A police officer could refuse to patrol near a church that’s not of his religion. A pro-life doctor could withhold information from a woman whose life would be threatened by full-term pregnancy, and to prevent her from seeking an abortion. The beliefs of particular Christian sects would also legalize their discrimination against women and divorcees, and even against minorities (remember – the KKK identifies itself as a Christian organization).
Indiana’s bizarre law could set precedent for other states to follow. At least 85 anti-LGBT bills were recently filed in 26 state legislatures, the Human Rights Campaign says.
Last week Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said he would sign the bill into law shortly after its passage.