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Posted by on Mar 29, 2015 in Featured, Gays, Government, Law, Politics | 41 comments

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s Anti-Gay Discrimination Political Branding and Quagmire

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) is enmeshed in a political quagmire and spreading national firestorm over a state law proponents say is merely to protect “religious freedom,” but that critics — which include a growing number of prominent Americans and big corporations — says looks more like an outright anti-gay discrimination law. Calls for boycotts, cancelled slated trips and indications that some corporations will limit or end their presence in the state are growing. After initial reports suggested Pence might finesse the bill he signed and defended, he now seems to be digging in his heels.

And, in doing so, it seems like he’s going to take considerable money that his state would have had otherwise with him. The bottom line on the law is this:

This is the 21st century. Some Republican lawmakers across the country on several issues may have the votes now to shove through laws long on their agenda, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t now face some considerable push-back. Just as many in 21st century won’t look the other way if fratboys on a bus smilingly chant racist words, many in 21st century America will now clamor to extract consequences for laws that seem aimed at using partisan power to set American’s social clock back. And so we see the political agony of one Mike Pence:

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) refused to say on Sunday whether it should be illegal under state law to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Pence appeared on ABC’s “This Week” to defend his decision to sign a controversial piece of legislation intended to protect religious liberties that critics say will enable discrimination in the state. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act would allow individuals and corporations to cite religious beliefs in private litigation. Pence’s decision to sign the bill into law has sparked backlash against the state.

In the interview, Pence dodged a question from George Stephanopoulos about whether the law would allow florists and bakers to deny their wedding services to gay couples by citing their religious beliefs. He also twice dodged a yes-or-no question on whether he believed it should be legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians under state law.

Prediction: On Monday, this will be a major subject of discussion on conservative talk radio and on conservative cable shows. It will then be framed as a crusade for religious freedom.This will be how it’ll be framed in coming days on Fox News and among some conservative pundits and bloggers. And soon support or at least defense of the Indiana law will become a litmus test for GOPers who want the party’s 2016 Presidential nomination.

Note to Mr Pence: As someone who worked in the news media for many years in the U.S. and abroad, dodging a question in a major controversy is a sure way to guarantee that the story gets more attention — and strong legs.

Pence defended his decision to sign the legislation, saying it was “absolutely not” a mistake to sign the law.

“If the general assembly in Indiana sends me a bill that adds a section that reiterates and amplifies and clarifies what the law really is and what it has been for the last 20 years, then I’m open to that,” the governor said. “But we’re — we’re not going to change this law.”

And so he threw down the gauntlet, reaffirming his loyalty to some of the constituencies that elected him to office and could perhaps propel him to higher heights in the GOP nationally. The downside: he has branded himself in a less flattering way with voters who are not gay but are more attune to 21st America. He also added one more reinforcement of the solidifying image of a Republican Party that seems exclusionary and dominated by fight-seeking talk radio political culture types, evangelicals and others who do not wish to merely conserve but take away some “givens” and protections in place in the U.S. today.

He said there has been misinformation about the law and insisted it was intended to protect religious liberty.

“This is not about discrimination,” Pence said, adding that tolerance is “a two-way street” and that there had been a lot of “shameless rhetoric” against the state law.

Here’s a sampling of reaction:
Washington Monthly:

The only information allowed inside this bubble of epistemic closure conservatives have built is that which confirms what they already believe to be true. Anything that contradicts their beliefs is written off as coming from “wicked liberal smear artists” and so, not only will it be rejected, it must be destroyed for the threat it represents.

As Sanchez points out – that creates a certain vulnerability for conservatives. What happens is that every now and then, the reality outside the bubble is simply too difficult to ignore and/or reject. We all watched as that happened to one conservative commentator after another on election night 2012. Even the Republican candidate himself was finally shaken out of his epistemic closure. Reality stepped in a provided a bitter pill for all to swallow.

But when your whole identity has been built underneath the protection of that bubble of epistemic closure, even moments like that are followed by rationalizations that attempt to repair the fabric that was torn by the intrusion of reality.

What we’re witnessing right now is that Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana is experiencing just such a breach in the bubble of his own epistemic closure. He actually believed that the people of Indiana (and the country) would hail his state’s adoption of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because that’s what everyone inside his bubble believed.


Indiana Gov. Mike Pence seems sincerely surprised that so many people think he’s a terrible person for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. At the same time, he appears to be kind of lost at sea because he thought acting like an intolerant anti-gay religious fundamentalist would be popular. This is probably partly because Governor Pence is a genuine jerk, but it’s also because he runs in almost exclusively right-wing circles and consumes almost exclusively right-wing media.

So, he’s kind of an a–hole and he surrounds himself with a–holes and he gets all his information and most of his feedback from a–holes. It’s like he’s living in a giant colon.

And then suddenly he’s forced to look outside into the light and there’s a whole world outside this colon that doesn’t approve of his values or seem at all inclined to reward him for his intolerance.

So, now he’s scrambling to repair the damage he’s caused his state but he doesn’t know how to go about it because he’s in shock and cannot believe the situation he’s created for himself.

Talking Points Memo:

There are tipping point moments in which things that were once uncontroversial or unpunished suddenly become very controversial and bring in their wake a storm of backlash. What’s most interesting is how these changes are often not incremental. They build slowly and then suddenly the terms are entirely different. It’s not surprising that something like this would eventually happen. But just why it happened in this case and in this way is less than clear.

The fact that other states have so called “religious freedom restoration acts” is at best misleading. The movement to push these laws goes back at least two decades. But until quite recently they were not specifically, almost exclusively, focused on gays and lesbians. Two things have changed. In the last eighteen months, social conservatives have recognized that they’ve lost the public battle over gay rights. Marriage equality will almost certainly be the law of the land nationwide in the near future. And the rulings that set the stage for that change will likely knock down all remaining legally sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians in the coming years. So social conservatives have retreated to a defensive action of accepting legally sanctioned equality but trying to create a carve out of discrimination under the guise of ‘religious liberty.’ The second thing is Hobby Lobby and that the signal that the Supreme Court will accept a concept of religious liberty far more expansive than anything seen in the past.

But we don’t need to look at RFRAs. Don’t we go through this story almost every year in which some red or reddish state pushes through some anti-gay rights law? This happens every year like spring follows winter. But this time something is different. Yes, there have been boycotts before. In Indiana itself, business groups wary of bad publicity and boycotts played a role in beating back another effort to ban same sex marriages. But here you have a flood of proactive statements by different companies saying they’ll shun the state. That seems to have created something of a rush to the exits (or entrances?) with various organizations which a few years ago likely wouldn’t have touched this kind of controversy signing themselves up for the effort.

Now Gov. Pence is reduced to lamely complaining that his and the legislatures efforts have been misunderstood or distorted.

Ann Althouse:

I’ve got to examine my own soul! I see it — e.g., here — and I know I’m avoiding it. There is something to examine. Why is Indiana getting into so much trouble over a type of law that used to be extremely popular? I guess it has something to do with Hobby Lobby and something to do with all that wedding cake business. There was a time when religionists had the ascendancy, and their pleas for relief from the burdens of generally applicable laws fell on the empathetic ears of conservatives and liberals alike.

Look at how pleased Bill Clinton was to sign what was then perceived as important civil rights legislation.

The tables have turned. And now all the liberals are remembering how much they love Antonin Scalia. I mean, not really, but to be consistent, those who are denouncing hapless Governor Mike Pence should be extolling Scalia who ushered in the era of “Religious Freedom” legislation..

Crooks and Liars:

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) on Sunday insisted that people on the Internet had conspired to create a “misunderstanding” that a so-called “religious freedom” law was about denying services to LGBT people. But at the same time, he repeatedly refused to answer if it effectively gave Christians a legal defense for discriminating against same-sex couples.

John Cole:

Mike Pence is shocked, shocked at the pushback and furor he was told would happen if he signed RFRA….You’ll note he didn’t answer the question, even when George pressed him again. He can’t answer the question, because the answer is obviously “Yes, florists can now discriminate legally against gay people.” Just ask the author of the bill…He’s stuck, and he doesn’t know what to do, so he will keep denying and deflecting while Indiana loses millions of dollars in business and travel and tourism. It is always important to remember, that when discussing Mike Pence, that he is really, really, stupid, and that Matt Yglesias nailed this fact long ago

The Guardian’s Roxane Gay:

Of course, Indiana is not alone in drafting such legislation. There are 19 other states with similar laws on the books. The ongoing fight for marriage equality and feminism are probably to blame. There are pesky people all across the country simply wanting the freedom to live their lives; they clearly must be stopped.

But let’s talk about what’s really going on here. Indiana is not protecting religious freedom. They are protecting a very specific brand of zealotry. They are protecting bigotry. Though they won’t admit it, SB 101 is a knee jerk response to marriage equality becoming law in Indiana in late 2014. In some ways, the passage of this law offers comfort. Small-minded people are more plainly revealing themselves for who and what they are.

The law sets a dangerous precedent, though. There are, for example, LGBT people who want to spend their money in Indiana, and some Indiana business owners don’t want that dirty queer money. Their warped faith guides them in this way and so be it. This bill will also allow businesses to deny women certain forms of contraception if the owners disapprove. The slope for such legislation is desperately slippery. As always, “religious freedom,” targets very specific groups of people—the groups those in power want to control or eradicate.

I live in Indiana and teach at Purdue University, a wonderful school with some of the brightest students I have ever had the privilege of working with. My colleagues are powerful and intelligent and kind. The cost of living is low, the prairie is wide and on clear nights, I can see all the stars in the sky above. I have reasonable access to two of my favorite cities, Indianapolis and Chicago. My commute is, with traffic, around six minutes. There have been some growing pains since I moved to the state but on the whole, I would have been happy to stay in Indiana for a while. Now, I want to leave.

The fiercest part of me knows I should stay and fight, but you cannot fight idiocy. You cannot fight a willful lack of common sense, a blatant disregard for decency, and a state government willing to codify discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. You cannot reason with people who don’t recognize the humanity in all of us.

US News & World Report:

All of which begs the question: why did Indiana Gov. Mike Pence just drag his state into the middle of a culture wars battle – fighting against history and clear public opinion, with billions of business dollars at stake – by making OK to discriminate against gays and lesbians?

It Came From The ‘90s: You remember Spence: he’s the guy who tried to start his own state news service, and some say he’s auditioning to join the 2016 Republican presidential field. Last year, thanks to an organized campaign, opponents defeated a same-sex marriage ban; now, they say, Spence has given them the Indiana Religious Freedom Act, a consolation prize modeled on the federal Restoration of Religious Freedom Act, a Clinton Administration law that, in general, bans the government from meddling in or interfering with religious practices or beliefs. It stems from an Oregon case of Alfred Smith, a drug and alcohol counselor who took peyote in a Native American religious ceremony but was fired for using drugs; the Supreme Court upheld the sacking, saying the state anti-drug policies took precedent. States’ rights, and all that. In reaction, a right-left Congressional coalition drafted and passed the RFRA, and President Bill Clinton signed it into law in 1993. But the law took on a new life when religious organizations used it as grounds for argument against contraception, most notably in the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling last year.

Back to the Future: Although Pence signed the bill in the closet, as some Twitter wags put it, then insisted it wasn’t about discrimination but protection of religion, Peter Montgomery of the liberal People for the American Way watchdog organization said you can tell a lot by looking at Pence’s guest list, which included influential Christian evangelical leaders as well as powerful Catholic bishops. But the party also includes states like Georgia, where a similar law is pending; PFAW’s Montgomery isn’t sure exactly how many red states have passed similar laws because “the landscape is changing all the time” as they race to enact similar laws. And although Pence isn’t in the top tier of GOP presidential wannabes – at least not yet – the move helps his party shift the conversation away from an uncomfortable civil rights fight to protection of religion in culture-wartime, and could give Pence a seat at a much larger table: “These are not just fringe people, but people on the platform committee of the Republican Party,” Montgomery said.

A cross section of Tweets:

The LA Times on now some in Indiana are puzzled about the movement to boycott their state:

Criticism of new Indiana legislation as discriminatory against gays and lesbians erupted this weekend in a torrent of canceled construction, stalled convention plans and the specter of business leaving the state.

Social media focused its ire on the Indiana Statehouse after Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed into law far-reaching freedoms for religious beliefs, protecting those who say their beliefs forbid them from serving same-sex couples. It became the 20th state to pass such legislation and, for some reason, the first one with a target painted on its back for doing so.

“I don’t understand why Indiana is getting a bad reputation,” said Krissi Johnson, serving hot dogs at a community gathering inside the firehouse in Austin, southern Indiana. “It would make more sense if we were the only ones.”

Pence’s signature, delivered in a private ceremony Thursday, set off a quick series of denouncements from gay rights groups and politicians, even some Indiana Republicans, who question the fallout from the bill’s prohibition against “substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion.”

lRelated Evangelist Bob Jones III apologizes for saying that gays should be stoned
Evangelist Bob Jones III apologizes for saying that gays should be stoned

On Saturday night, the Indianapolis Star reported that Pence was willing to support legislation to “clarify” that the law does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Calling the furor over the legislation “the deepest crisis of his political career,” the Star said Pence blamed the uproar on a “misunderstanding driven by misinformation.”

Earlier Saturday, thousands marched against the legislation in Indianapolis with signs that included “LIBERTY FOR ALL HOOSIERS.”, based in San Francisco, said it would stop sending staff to meetings in Indianapolis. Businesses began posting window stickers pledging to serve everyone.

Pence on ABC:

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  • DdW

    “Please turn your clocks back 200 years.” LOL

    Reminiscent of a PanAm pilot coming on over the PA system as the 747 was landing in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: “We have just landed in Saudi Arabia, please set your watches back 400 years.” I don’t remember flying with that pilot again.

  • Slamfu

    This law is so blatantly in violation of the 1st amendments prohibition on the state recognizing religion I doubt it will survive its first challenge in a federal court, much less the SCOTUS.

    P.S. – I’m looking forward to the political slow roast BBQ coming to Gov. Pence’s career.

  • Didn’t the GOP’s post 2012 election report recommend getting out of people’s bedrooms and wising up on immigration in order for the party to stand a better chance of winning a national election?

    Reince Preibus: “Focus groups described our party as narrow-minded, out of touch and, quote, “stuffy old men.” The perception that we’re the party of the rich, unfortunately, continues to grow.”

    Reibus also said the GOP needs to do a better job reaching out to Hispanic, black, Asian and gay Americans. Policies like this will do the opposite of that.

    Republicans are stuck pandering to their base which plays well on Fox News but very poorly everywhere else. Circling the drain…….

    • Rambie

      Too bad that drain is slow.

  • willwright

    We need to be kind to these people as they are obviously operating with some type of mental handicap. Why would anyone pass such a law unless there was some type of derangement involved? I remember some years ago the mental hospitals in this country were more or less closed and the patients released onto the streets. It appears that in Indiana that those same patients have taken over the state government and turned it into an asylum. We should send in the CDC and teams of doctors to discover the cause and prevent the illness from spreading to other states although several already seem infected.

  • The_Ohioan

    What was meant as a protection for minority religions’ conduct (not beliefs – those can’t be affected) has, with Hobby Lobby, been turned into a protection of majority religions’ conduct (which is what Justice Ginsberg told us would happen). A reasonable judge would extend all the anti-discrimination protections listed in federal employment laws to any other conduct by a corporation/business.

    However the question of protection under the law, as always, depends on the judges appointed or elected as we see in the Supreme Court and Judge Roy Moore’s decisions. Just as protection under the law depends on the intent of the lawmakers – in this case, essentially a secret cabal.

    The Indiana legislature just “forgot” to pass an anti-discrimination law, as Illinois did; now they are going to pay big time.

    The University of Illinois’ Robin Fretwell Wilson says Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act cannot be used to discriminate against gay people as many people fear.

    “The statute has been labeled all kinds of things, and has been dragged into the whole recognition of the question of gay rights. And I just don’t think RFRA does that kind of work,” Wilson told WBEZ on Friday. “They are not really about gay rights at all, but they’ve been labeled by people on both sides as necessary to deal with gay rights, to stave off gay rights, and on the flip side, to give a license to discriminate. That’s just not what RFRAs are designed to do. They don’t really have anything to do with gay people.”
    From Wilson’s perspective, if a business owner tries to use Indiana’s RFRA to deny services to a gay person, because it may go against the business owner’s religion, the claim is likely to lose in court.
    “I believe that anybody who wants to use a RFRA as a reason not to serve (gay) people will lose. (They) will absolutely lose. They are not going to prevail. We haven’t seen people prevail on those grounds nowhere in the country,” Wilson said. “To say that all of a sudden, that a RFRA will become this back-pocket veto of a discrimination statute I think is just wrong.”
    Wilson says what’s causing some to believe Indiana’s RFRA could be used to discriminate is that some religious people in Indiana think it can be used in that fashion.

    “You get these religious leaders who say we have to have RFRA to keep gay rights in check,” Wilson said. “Folks on the other side are going to say ‘what the heck, that’s a license to discriminate.’ I think both sides just fundamentally misunderstand what these statutes are designed to do.”
    “You need statewide laws that protect lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people from discrimination in housing, hiring and public accommodations like in restaurants,” Wilson said. “As I understand it right now that’s not true in Indiana. I think that’s just terrible.”

  • Momzworld

    I have to say I find Governor Pence’s apparent “shock” at the pushback to be quite phony. He must have anticipated some kind of reaction or he wouldn’t have signed the bill “behind closed doors.”

    And the cry by the religious right that gay rights/marriage will ruin the institution of marriage rings hollow when you look just at the anecdotal incidence of divorce in the Christian community. The divorce rate is at least as high in the church these days as it is in the population at large, but “that’s different.” Divorce and the infidelity that often causes it has done more damage to marriage between one man and one woman in the next two generations than gay marriage is capable of doing — in my opinion.

    • Slamfu

      Forget divorce rates. How about Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Pressley? Brittany and K-Fed? Famous holy rollers and “family values” folks on their 4th and 5th marraiges? “Who wants to marry a millionaire” and other game shows where people show up to marry someone for money and/or 15 minutes of fame? Straight people are doing a pretty good job making marriage look like a farce all on their own, far more than gay folks.

      • Momzworld

        Precisely. If I could figure out how to get it on here, I’d attach something someone sent to me this morning that illustrates this. The very last word isn’t in my vocabulary, but it illustrates what you’re getting at.

    • The_Ohioan

      Not sure what the statistics are on religious vs non-religious rates of infidelity or divorce, but that’s not what the right is concerned about anyway. It’s the expansion of moral “rightness” to what they consider an immoral group of humans. And yes, the hypocrisy is thick on the ground.

      If you look at the picture “behind closed doors”, you will find 7 nuns, 3 gazetted bigots, 2 monks, 1 rabbi, and a partridge in a pear tree. 🙂

      • Momzworld

        It’s the hypocrisy that is indeed thick on the ground that gets to me.

        (I like the 7 nuns, 3 gazette bigots, 2 monks, 1 rabbi, and a partridge in a pear tree! “behind closed doors”)

  • Note how a couple turned to Clinton to justify this. Obviously Clinton’s intentions were different, and the Clintons are far more moderate than Republican social conservatives, but it still shows how Clinton-style social conservatism helps move the country towards the right and undermines liberal principles.

    • The_Ohioan

      Clinton’s signing the RFRA was not necessarily a move to the right. Since it was passed unanimously in the House and by 97 out of 100 Senators, it was a very centrist move and could even be considered a liberal move to protect minority religious conduct. Just as Don’t ask, Don’t tell was a centrist/liberal move away from the instant rejection that was in effect at that time in the military.

      Both bills may have been too moderate for the far left, but, like the evolving view on gay marriage that both of the Clintons and Obama all three experienced, they were all moving in the right direction (left) if more slowly than the liberals would like. I would reject “undermining liberal principles”, but that’s just my opinion and has nothing to do with any reservations I have about Hillary’s candidacy.

  • DdW

    Note how a couple turned to Clinton to justify this.

    Wow, as we say in tennis, “Good Eye.”

    I had to re-read the piece a couple of times and then still only found one tenuous reference to the “Clinton administration” and “President Bill Clinton” related to the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act.

    But then again, I wasn’t looking for any Hillary Clinton “material” here.

    • There were two references citing Clinton here, but such references have also been common in other reports on the law over the weekend, and on NPR’s Morning Edition this morning. References to Clinton have been a common way for Republicans to justify this, along with other conservative legislation in the past.

    • The_Ohioan

      I think the references are to Bill Clinton’s signing of the Religious Freedom law in 1993; one in Ann Althouse’s quote and two in U.S. News and World Report’s quote. That law was designed to protect minority religious groups like Native Amerians, Amish, Seventh Day Adventists, etc. who have religious beliefs that were called into question by a government entity.

      The Supreme Court later decided that federal law was unconstitutional, but some States have their own RF laws. Indiana’s is the latest and of those that have been tested in court, the plaintiff (like the bakery that wouldn’t do a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage ) lost .

      If you can tell the difference between that bakery’s loss and Hobby Lobby’s win, you will be better informed than I am. 🙂

      • DdW

        Thanks, T.O.

        As I noted in my comment, I understand the reference — tenuous and misguided as it is — was to Bill Clinton’s (not Hillary Rodham Clinton’s) signing of the RFRA.

        I know Republicans and other HRC opponents will doggedly try to conflate Bill Clinton and HRC when it suits them, but hopefully that dawg won’t fly.

        • What you call “tentuous and misguided” has been a long standing criticism of the Clintons for their social conservatism by liberals. For example:

          Your attempt to distinguish Hillary from Bill is meaningless as she has repeatedly taken the same conservative positions, even after Bill left office.

          As I said above, their brand of social conservatism is certainly preferable to that from most Republicans. Republicans will use whatever they can against either Clinton. That doesn’t mean there is zero validity to their use of Clinton policies to give cover to opposing liberal views.

          • DdW

            Actually I said “tenuous and misguided” and I stand by it.

            The fact that it may have been longstanding does not make it less “tenuous and misguided.” In fact it makes it even more so.

            And I stand by my opinion that Republicans and other HRC opponents will doggedly try to conflate Bill Clinton and HRC when it suits them, “meaningless” as it may seem to you..

            I also stand by my compliments on your excellent eyesight. 🙂

    • Rambie

      Plus the Federal RF law was prohibiting the government from discriminating against a religion. The Indiana law is broader in scope to include individuals and businesses. The scale is totally different. Also many of the other 19-states also have anti-LGBT discrimination laws as well. Something than Pence refused for Indiana. Finally, look who he had with him at the private (scared Mr Governor?) signing ceremony. A bunch of anti-gay bigots.

      Actions speak louder than words Governor Pence.

      • The_Ohioan

        Absolutely right. No other state extends the ability to discriminate to allowing individuals and businesses to decline service without being able to be sued.

        Edited to add: Which makes Prof. Wilson’s opinion in my comment above probably not correct.

        • Rambie

          To me, Wilson’s comments came across as attempt to cover. Much like the “clarification” comments from the Gov and others.

        • Rambie

          OMG, did you guys watch Gov Pence’s press conference today? What a tool, and as usual, said nothing but doubled down. He did seem to let is slip the “clarification” would be to link the RFRA to the current Indiana NDA on public accommodations. However he forgot to mention said NDA doesn’t include LGBT.

          How dare the Gov insult the good reputation of our lord of the Sith Darth Vader with his breathing! I’m offended. *s* Seriously, his staff needed to give him some allergy medicine or something.

          • The_Ohioan

            Yes, it’s call walking it back at a very brisk pace. – or – How to keep your hand in the cookie jar when you’ve already been caught. – depending on which portion of the press conference you are watching.

            I posted this link in the new thread on Indiana, but will post it here also. Not sure of the website, but the “plain English” interpretation they give of the law sounds about right.

            You can scroll down to SENATE ENROLLED ACT No. 101 if you don’t want to read the whole thing.


  • adelinesdad

    I was on the fence about this over the past few days–the law is vaguely worded enough to leave it up to the courts to decide where the lines should be drawn, making the defender’s argument that this is only re-affirming basic religious freedoms plausible. However, after watching Pence’s shameful performance–denying the law was about discrimination, vowing to “explain” it to the people, but then refusing repeatedly to answer a basic question about it–count me in the opposition now, to both him and the law.

  • PJBFan

    Personally, I believe that any business should have the absolute right to refuse any person for any reason. That being said, I also think it is well within the rights of private groups to refuse to do business with those companies who discriminate.

    In other words, if Wal-Mart wants to start refusing to serve LGBT people, or non-whites, I take no issue with that as a matter of law. I take issue with it morally, and would not shop there, and would discourage people from doing the same, if that were to happen.

    • Slamfu

      What if you lived in a small rural community and WalMart was the only provider of 95% of services to said community, and they wouldn’t serve you because of something beyond your control, like your skin color. Would you feel the same? Because that is the case in a lot of communities.

      Also, its just plain morally indefensible on its own, regardless of your allotment of retail options.

      • PJBFan

        I do not disagree, discrimination, in any form, is morally indefensible. That does not mean that individuals should not be allowed to act on their insidious prejudices.

        That being said, I’ve been in situations where I was refused service, or would have been refused service, based on things such as skin color (I am white, but grew up in a heavily non-white community, and went to failing schools for most of my life), and sexual orientation (I am, after all, am openly gay man). I simply exercise my right to boycott those places. I let them know quietly, but firmly, and I let others know. I do not seek to force them to serve me. I do not believe it is my right to force others to serve me for whatever reason, and I vigorously and vocally oppose any law that requires private businesses to admit anyone they do not wish to admit, be it based on sex, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or what have you. I see that as an exercise in free association and free speech.

      • adelinesdad

        Morally indefensible is not an argument for it to be illegal, I’m sure you’d agree. I do see the logic in PJBFan’s strict libertarian approach, but I agree with you that it is necessary in an environment of widespread discrimination to legislate non-discrimination to ensure access to goods and services to everyone, which is necessary for liberty. The civil rights act was necessary on those grounds, though it’s debatable whether it still is, and whether laws forbidding discrimination against gays are really necessary under those grounds (would a gay couples really have trouble acquiring a wedding cake, flowers, or a photographer?). I think the more commonly expressed grounds for non-discrimination laws are essentially moral: to marginalize intolerance. It’s arguable whether that should be valid grounds in a free society.

        But we are pretty far away from the libertarian ideal considering the current state of our laws, and if we want to start pushing in that direction, this wouldn’t be where I’d start.

        • Rambie

          If you’re going to talk from a Libertarian position, I don’t see the need for these RFRA’s either. Plus, when asked, more than once BTW, Gov Pence could not name even one single incident that this law was supposed to address. Not even a hypothetical situation could be provided.

          In the face of these return to Jim Crow laws, I do think protections need to be written into non-discrimination laws.

          In a more perfect world, no these kinds of laws wouldn’t be needed.

          • PJBFan

            I see the need for RFRAs for two reasons. The first reason is that freedom to practice one’s religion, including enforcing on onesself one’s religious tenets, is constitutionally protected. The second reason is that it guarantees that private businesses do not have to serve those for whom service upon them would violate their strongly held moral and religious tenets.

            I find what Adelinesdad said to be particularly salient. It is not within the purview of the Government to discourage prejudices. Furthermore, we are a federal republic; these issues, like all excepting trade, plainly interstate and international commerce, and defense issues, should be wholly within the purview of the States, not within the purview of the Federal Government. If the people of the State of Indiana do not want to be required to serve LGBTQ folks in private business transactions, I do not think they should be required so to do. If private companies in Alabama wish to not serve non-white customers in business transactions, then I believe that they should be allowed so to do. We have the opportunity to move where we need to. If one cannot find what one needs in one community, then perhaps one should leave that community, and move elsewhere.

          • DdW

            I slightly disagree — but, heck, what is new!

            It is not within the purview of the Government to discourage prejudices

            If racial discrimination is considered a prejudice, then –if the U.S. government had not legislated against racial discrimination — many of us would still be sitting in the back of the bus.

            …these issues, like all excepting trade, plainly intersqtate and international commerce, and defense issues, should be wholly within the purview of the States, not within the purview of the Federal Government

            Hello, Governor Wallace et al. It is perfectly fine to keep those “negroes” from attending your fine state institutions of higher learning.

            If private companies in Alabama wish to not serve non-white customers in business transactions, then I believe that they should be allowed so to do. We have the opportunity to move where we need to. If one cannot find what one needs in one community, then perhaps one should leave that community, and move elsewhere.

            WOW!!! and, added:

            Exactly! When all the businesses in town X, or state Y, or country Z, wish not to serve Jews, heck, they always have the opportunity to move “elsewhere.”

          • Rambie

            As you said yourself, freedom of religion is already in the Constitution. Why do you need redundancy? Recall what the Federal RFRA was about; Granting Native American’s who wanted to smoke peyote in their Native American religious tradition. Or to put it another way; Preventing the GOVERNMENT from getting in the way of religious practice. Government, not individuals, not businesses, not forcing one’s religion upon others.

            Per the 1st amendment, you’re free from the Government enforcing a religion on you. If you want to be Catholic, you can be. If you want to be Baptist, so be it. etc.

            What the constitution doesn’t –and these RFRA SHOULDN’T– is grant the right for anyone (or business) to force your religion upon others. That’s what this Indiana RFRA was about and why they couldn’t even give one example.

            “Just Move” huh? Never mind if you were born and raised in the state/city, you’re not welcome here. Doesn’t matter if you have family, friends, job, or a home; Just Move. Now where have we heard that one before?

          • PJBFan

            There is no redundancy. An RFRA protects religious folk from interference in their private doings by the government.

            I strongly disagree with your statement that the RFRA shouldn’t grant the right for a private business to enact policies within its walls and on its property that require people to conform to their beliefs. It is the private property of the business owner. The business owner can do whatever he/she/they like. I see no reason why a private business should not be allowed to permit what customers it chooses. I do not have to patronize them, and would refuse to patronize a business that refused a person based on race, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, or whatever else have you. I find that morally reprehensible. That being said, just because I find their believes to be irrational, evil, and ungodly does not mean that I have the right to interfere with those beliefs.

            I admit, I would have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if I were in Congress in those days. On the other hand, I would not have hesitated to excoriate any supporter thereof if I was on a Court. I think that the Supreme Court’s decision in Heart of Atlanta Motel and Ollie’s Barbecue were legally baseless. The law was morally proper, but, I think, wholly and patently unconstitutional. I believe that the only way that the Feds, or even States, can, or should be allowed to interfere in the right of private businesses to exclude those they choose is by amending the Federal Constitution.

            The back of the bus analogy only fits where the public transit system is wholly privatized. If Greyhound, for example, was running the local buses, and was not under contract from the government, but just running a private, local business, then yes, they should have the right, I believe, to tell whomever they wish that they have to sit at the back of the bus. However, if the company is publicly run, or is a public-private partnership, where the government is involved, then I do believe that anti-discrimination laws should apply. Indeed, I see no reason for anti-discrimination laws given the Warren and Subsequent Courts’ interpretation of the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses.

          • Rambie

            “There is no redundancy. An RFRA protects religious folk from interference in their private doings by the government…”

            That’s what the 1st amendment does, so yes, there is a redundancy.

            “The back of the bus analogy only fits where the public transit system is wholly privatized. If Greyhound…”

            Well there we go, I respect your opinion here but I don’t agree. A private non-religious business should not be able to discriminate. A a fellow gay man of likely similar age, you’ve seen first hand how far gay acceptance, better known as “gay rights” have come over the decades. I suspect we’d still be in pre-Stonewall days if it wasn’t for the Civil Rights movement.

          • PJBFan

            I also forgot to add this little question:

            You state that the law should not allow one person to imprint his or her religious beliefs upon another. Why, then, should your beliefs be imposed upon others? Who is to decide morality? As far as I see it, it is wholly without the province of the Government to decide moral questions. Those decisions are best left up to individuals, and small communities of people, I say.

          • Rambie

            What “religious beliefs” are being imposed upon others?

            If your business is to make and sell cakes, what does it matter if the customer ask for two grooms on top? What does it matter if the customer is gay, black, Asian, Jewish, or some flavor of Christian?

            If your private business is to supply bus service to a city, what does it matter who steps in and sits down in the front quietly?

          • PJBFan

            As a private business, I believe that the owner has, or should have, the right to exclude whomever they wish from purchasing goods or services, and for whatever reason they wish.

            Just because one is open “to the public” does not mean that the business owner has to be hired for any reason. As an attorney, I would absolutely refuse to serve Planned Parenthood. As an ethical matter, I cannot give Planned Parenthood, or its advocates a strong support. Even though I believe in much of what they do (i.e. protecting women’s health, providing free or low cost contraception), the sheer fact that they provide women with the ability to obtain an abortion is enough to make Planned Parenthood a client I would refuse. Why am I refusing them? Because they allow women to obtain what has been decided by the Supreme Court to be a fundamental right, a right I consider to be morally abhorrent, and wholly indefensible, except to save and protect the life of the mother. Am I permitted to do so? Absolutely; in fact, ethically, unless I am the last lawyer in town (hardly!) I should refuse them as a client. My morals prevent me from defending the right to obtain an abortion. This is not illegal. The law at issue here is no different, as I see it. This simply expands that right.

  • Slamfu

    This whole thing collapses the first time someone in Indiana tries to protect their religious freedoms by saying they run a business that supports Sharia Law and any who wish to patronize them must live by those rules. Once it sinks in that this applies to non-christians too maybe, just maybe, it might click about how stupid the law is.

  • Greg

    Well, it’s a good day to be contrarian. What if we just said to Indiana businesses, “If you don’t want to do business with gay people, feel free to limit your services.” If I want to go to lunch with my gay friend but she is not welcome in that restaurant, the restaurant turns away one customer but loses two. Now, of course, the risk is that if you permit that intolerance to gain a toehold, coupled with government sanction of it, will it escalate to critical mass and we are right back to Jim Crow, not only racially, but in matters of gender equality, preference equality and socioeconomic equaltiy as well? I guess the broader question is whether the society at large has expanded its scope of thought sufficiently that discriminatory practices will be isolationist by definition and the practitioners of them will cause themselves to disappear. In a society that in twenty more years will be majority non-Caucasion, who will suffer if SAE at Oklahoma openly excludes persons of color from membership? Who will suffer if a college woman tells her suitor that if he wants to hang with the fraternity brothers that is his privilege, but if he spends time with them he won’t be spending time with her. Who will suffer if I conclude that if the money and trade of certain ‘different’ people aren’t good enough for a local business, then my money isn’t good enough either. Have we progressed sufficiently in the last 100 years that individuals can be relied upon to simply walk away from discrimination by choice, or have we learned nothing as a society? If it is the latter, is this all not Sisyphus’s labor? It would be a bold stroke to take the ‘give it your best shot’ approach, but is it not possible that it could work? I picture an atheist, lesbian, young woman of color looking into the eyes of a frail, bitter, toothless old geezer and paraphrasing Dr. Phil by asking, “You know that racist religious intolerance thing. How’s that working out for you?”

  • DdW

    If a person or group has to contrive and pass laws that discriminate,
    hurt, inconvenience or deny others their rights in order to prove or “protect” their
    morals or their religious beliefs, what does that say about their morals and their religious beliefs…

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