Thousands of pro-LGBT protesters rallied against the "religious freedom" law Saturday at the Indiana State Capital.
Here's a round up of the some of the best developments following the decision by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to sign a "religious freedom" bill Thursday that ensures discrimination against LGBT Americans. 1. Pain rains down on Gov. Mike Pence. From the IndyStar reporter Tim Swarens:
Gov. Mike Pence, scorched by a fast-spreading political firestorm, told The Star on Saturday that he will support the introduction of legislation to “clarify” that Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians... Asked if that legislation might include making gay and lesbian Hoosiers a protected legal class, Pence said, “That’s not on my agenda.” Amid the deepest crisis of his political career, Pence said repeatedly that the intense blowback against the new law is the result of a “misunderstanding driven by misinformation.” He adamantly insisted that RFRA will not open the door to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians. But he did acknowledge that Indiana’s image — and potentially its economic health — has been hurt badly by the controversy.
2. Indiana-based tech company Angie's List halts $40 million HQ expansion in Indianapolis. Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle explains:
"We have made a decision at the company that we are going to withdraw our application for tax abatements for a headquarters project that we have been working on for several years... We had hoped to centralize all of our activities in Indianapolis, where the vast vast majority of our employees exist... The developments of this past week however have changed our view on that project... The so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act was very disappointing to us... We believe that what that bill does to our efforts to recruit good talent into Indiana is significant... In essence, we will be looking at alternatives..."
3. Montana religious "freedom" bill dies in a 50-50 vote. From Independent Record reporter Alison Noon:
After a heated floor debate that moved the bill sponsor to raise his camouflaged Bible, state representatives failed to pass House Bill 615 on a 50-50 vote. The bill resembles a recent Indiana law that allows open discrimination for the sake of "religious freedom."
And here's what Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock had to say...
"What's happening in Indiana is something that shouldn't be happening in Montana," Bullock said before the floor debate. He added, "We don't need laws like that imported into our state."
4. 3000 show up to protest at Indiana's statehouse. From the New Civil Rights Movement:
On Saturday afternoon, about 3000 citizens, gay, straight, Black, white, Republican, Democratic, secular, religious, joined together in a rally to support the LGBT community – seen as the target of the law – and to denounce lawmakers and Governor Pence for enabling and promoting discrimination.
5. Lambda Legal attorney Jenny Pizer explains why Pence lied when he said the Indiana "religious freedom" law isn't about discrimination. (Note: this may not be sexy stuff, but it's important.) Here's Pizer:
Gov. Pence, in his signing statement, said, "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."
First, Pizer refutes the Pence's discrimination claim.
If this new law does not seek to facilitate discrimination, why did legislators pressing for its passage say it’s “needed” to allow businesses to turn away same-sex couples? And why did a majority of Indiana legislators then reject amendments offered to specify that these enhanced religious rights cannot be used to excuse discrimination?
Second, Pizer explains that Indiana's new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) will allow individuals to defend themselves in court against other individuals who might sue them for discrimination. This is new. The old RFRAs did not apply to private disputes. They were meant to keep the government from infringing on an individual's religious beliefs.
Further, about disputes between private parties, the law says explicitly, “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” This language was included to allow private parties to object to following a law that otherwise would apply to them, and to assert these expanded religious rights in a dispute with another private party.
6. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff relocates the company's conference. From Quentin Hardy:
Mr. Benioff has already said Salesforce would move from Indianapolis to New York a customer conference that last year drew 10,000 people. “We can’t bring our customers or our employees into a situation where they might be discriminated against,” he told the technology news site Recode.
7. Legendary AIDS activist Peter Staley calls on Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin to take action.
#BoycottIndiana is a grassroots movement with a heavy assist from progressive-oriented businesses (Yelp, Salesforce, Apple, etc.). The real shocker here is that our mainstream LGBT rights groups in DC haven't signed on. HRC won't even Tweet the hashtag... We need to make an example out of one of these states, and Indiana's version of these LGBT discrimination bills is the perfect place to show our resolve. If Chad's activism isn't all smoke and mirrors, he needs to pull together the coalition he's been cultivating (does it exist?) since joining HRC, and stand with leaders of other movements (civil rights, immigration, unions, etc.) at a press conference where they all say "no more business in Indiana until the law is repealed." Can you imagine the reaction to such a united front?
8. Basketball great Charles Barkley calls on the NCAA to pull the Final Four tournament from Indiana.
“Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me,” said Barkley. “As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states’ cities.”