Indiana’s Republican Governor, Mike Pence, has been whining in the media that his law is “no different” from RFRAs in other US states, but that’s absolutely NOT true. No matter how many times Pence and the rightwing media repeat the lie, it doesn’t suddenly make it true.
The whole purpose of Indiana’s RFRA was to enable discrimination against LGBT people. As the map above from ThinkProgress (CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress) shows, Indiana is the ONLY state where their RFRA applies to disputes between private individuals—and “person” is defined to include for-profit businesses and corporations—even when the state of Indiana isn’t a party in the dispute.
Garrett Epps, writing for The Atlantic, explains why Indiana Republicans deliberately wrote their law the way they did:
(T)here’s a lot of evidence that the new wave of “religious freedom” legislation was impelled, at least in part, by a panic over a New Mexico state-court decision, Elane Photography v. Willock. In that case, a same-sex couple sued a professional photography studio that refused to photograph the couple’s wedding. New Mexico law bars discrimination in “public accommodations” on the basis of sexual orientation. The studio said that New Mexico’s RFRA nonetheless barred the suit; but the state’s Supreme Court held that the RFRA did not apply “because the government is not a party.”In Indiana, Democrats offered an amendment to say explicitly that the proposed RFRA law did not permit businesses to discriminate. Naturally, Republicans voted that amendment down, giving clear evidence that enabling anti-LGBT discrimination was their specific intent.
These latest crops of RFRA bills are NOT motivated not by a genuine desire to protect “religious freedom”; instead, they’re motivated purely by anti-gay animus, the extremist religionists’ desire to prevent LGBT people from being full and equal citizens. The far right know they lost the battle to stop marriage equality, but they think they can still make life difficult for LGBT people.
Obviously Indiana’s governor knew all that. He held a private signing ceremony for the RFRA—something that was unusual enough that the Indiana media commented on it. Moreover, Pence flat out refused to say who attended, releasing a photo of a few religious people standing around him. Media reports say that there were around 80 people who attended, including three of Indiana’s most vicious professional anti-gay religious activists—men who are well known for their extreme anti-LGBT rhetoric (see image below). One of those far right anti-gay groups that was represented is one that Pence actively supported. They made clear in ALL their lobbying materials that the point of the bill was to discriminate against LGBT people.
We also now know that Pence has a long history of being anti-gay, sometimes stridently so. No wonder the radical right professional anti-gay activists love him so much!
The irony in all this is that Indiana doesn’t include LGBT people in its state civil rights laws (and Pence declared LGBT people will not be added), so discrimination against LGBT people is perfectly legal in most of the state. However, four municipalities, including Indianapolis (whose Republican mayor opposed the RFRA) DO protect the civil and human rights of LGBT people. The RFRA could be used to undermine those local protections.
So, when Mike Pence claims Indiana’s RFRA isn’t about discrimination, he’s lying. When he claims it’s “just like” all the other RFRAs on the books, he’s lying. When he claims he doesn’t understand why such anger is being directed at him and the other Republicans in power in the state, he’s lying. He’s lying to cover up the fact that “getting” LGBT people was the whole point of their RFRA.
Indiana’s law is different from all other RFRA laws on purpose. Mike Pence knows that, and he knows that allowing discrimination was the intent all along. He was in on it from the beginning and, given his record, he obviously approved of that goal. More and more people around the USA are beginning to understand all that, and that’s why so much anger is being directed at Indiana and Pence for bringing his entire state in disrepute. Mike Pence is lying whenever he says otherwise. We’re not the big fools Pence clearly thinks we all are.
|This image was distributed by GLAAD, though not made by them.|