Column: Indiana’s religious freedom law a major misstep

The new law allows businesses to deny service to individuals based on their sexual orientation.

On March 26, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” into law.

The law will set standards concerning how religious objections will be judged in court. This means that individuals and corporations may use their religious convictions to support their own agendas. It will be applied on a case-to-case basis, as no two cases will use the law in the same way.

The bill, which will go into effect July 1, is based on the Religious Freedom Act signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Indiana is the 20th state to enact a law such as this.

The most concerning aspect of this law is that it enables businesses to possibly deny service to individuals based on their sexual orientation by using their own religious beliefs. This law gives hope to the many conservatives that are angry over Indiana’s current stance on same-sex marriage.

The federal courts overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban last year. However, Pence denied claims that the law is not concerned about discrimination. He has stressed that the law is an overdue protection of religious liberties. However, Pence later said that he is seeking more legislation to immediately clarify the act.

This law is another disappointing step back from LGBT equality. The governor of Indiana claims that he is enacting legislation that protects one minority group while sacrificing the freedom of another. However, the freedom of the minority group that will be sacrificed can result in dangerous consequences. This law will make it even more difficult for the LGBT community to gain fair and just representation in the eyes of the court as well as getting equal treatment from businesses, who can refuse service based on sexual orientation.

This is not only a statewide issue. According to USA Today, only 21 states have statewide laws that prohibit against discrimination on sexual orientation, and nine have these same protections restricted only to public employees. This is a problem that needs to be addressed throughout the country. Although LGBT and civil rights organizations are gaining more and more equal rights, including marriage equality, laws such as these are erasing this hard-earned representation.

However, there seems to be a silver lining in this situation. Numerous businesses and organizations have threatened to pull their business endeavors out of the state as part of the #BoycottIndiana movement. Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce.com, a technology company, has sought to cancel all of his business’s events in Indiana to protect his employees. Jeremy Stoppelman, the founder of Yelp, an online review service, issued a warning to the state, condemning its recent law. Gen Con, a gaming convention that attracts nearly 60,000 attendees, also threatened to relocate to another location. And New York Gov. Mario Cuomo (D) barred “non-essential” official travel to Indiana for state employees.

Furthermore, other technology companies, actors and even the NCAA have all expressed their disapproval. Some high-profile businesses have already began to reconsider their expansion plans, which has the potential to cost the state tens of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

Pence apparently did not adequately think through the disastrous consequences of this poorly executed law. It is going to be dangerous for the safety of the LGBT community as well as the financial security of the state of Indiana. It has the ability for the judicial system to become even more of a mess than it already is, by unjustly favoring cases based on religious convictions.

Indiana needs to be the talking point to solve this problem throughout the country. What’s the point of gaining LGBT representation through marriage equality if it is only going to be undermined by other laws?

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