Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Thursday signed SB101, a bill that would allow private businesses, individuals and organizations to discriminate against anyone in Indiana on religious grounds. “The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.
Indiana businesses will now be lawfully allowed to turn away LGBT customers by citing “religious freedom” as a reason to not provide services.
“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith. The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said after signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SEA 101) in a private ceremony. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”
Pence likened Clinton’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the 90s to Thursday’s signing.
“Fortunately, in the 1990s Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – limiting government action that would infringe upon religion to only those that did not substantially burden free exercise of religion absent a compelling state interest and in the least restrictive means,” Pence said, then added: “Last year the Supreme Court of the United States upheld religious liberty in the Hobby Lobby case based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but that act does not apply to individual states or local government action. At present, nineteen states – including our neighbors in Illinois and Kentucky – have adopted Religious Freedom Restoration statutes. And in 11 additional states, the courts have interpreted their constitutions to provide a heightened standard for reviewing government action.”
Pence said the bill was not rooted in discrimination.
“This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it. In fact, it does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved. For more than 20 years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana,” he said. “Indiana is rightly celebrated for the hospitality, generosity, tolerance, and values of our people, and that will never change. Faith and religion are important values to millions of Hoosiers and with the passage of this legislation, we ensure that Indiana will continue to be a place where we respect freedom of religion and make certain that government action will always be subject to the highest level of scrutiny that respects the religious beliefs of every Hoosier of every faith.”
“SB101 will facilitate discrimination in many areas of life for Indiana families. Even more troubling is Governor Pence’s desperate rush to sign this badly designed bill in the face of fast-growing public and business opposition. Its repercussions are already being felt as national organizations from The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to the enormous Gen Con gaming convention are reevaluating their plans to hold their conventions in Indiana,” said Jennifer Pizer, National Director of Lambda Legal’s Law and Policy Project.
“One wonders why Gov. Pence is in such a hurry. His attempt to end discussion this way won’t succeed, and he will bear main responsibility for the negative financial impacts on Indiana likely to unfold over the next couple of years,” Pizer added. “That’s what happened to Colorado a bit more than a decade ago, when those seeking freedom to discriminate against gay and transgender people won a majority vote and cost the state dearly. With so many cities and states competing for conventions and major sports events, why would planners pick Indiana, a place where elected officials have chosen to treat businesses like churches, and to reject every amendment to protect the most basic of civil rights?”
“In the face of opposition from Indiana’s LGBT community, Indiana’s business community, and the majority of Americans who believe a business should not be able to refuse services to individuals because they are gay or lesbian, Gov. Mike Pence and the Republican Party decided to move forward with a damaging bill that turns back the clock on the progress we have made for LGBT equality,” said DNC Vice Chair, President of the Association of State Democratic Chairs, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair, and Member of the DNC’s LGBT Caucus Ray Buckley.
“By signing this blatantly discriminatory bill that will only drive business out of his state, Pence reminds every Hoosier and every American that the Republican Party is more focused on its ideological social agenda than it is on expanding opportunity for the middle class and growing our economy,” Buckley added. “And the fact is, Republican presidential hopeful Mike Pence is far from alone on this issue. Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio have all voiced support for similar legislation and policies that would give businesses the right to refuse services to LGBT people. Just imagine if these politicians had the chance to bring this dangerous and divisive agenda to the White House.”