Today I’d like to talk to you about a Thing that happened in my state recently. I live in Indiana, and we’ve been on the news approximately 129345673403458% more often than usual because… our governor is a bigot! And a loser!
I’ve mentioned this previously, but… my state is embarrassing. We fail in, like, so many ways. When I made my college decisions last year, the location of my future alma mater was a HUGELY important factor – because I don’t want to spend the next four years of my life in Indiana!
During these past few weeks, though, Indiana really outdid itself in terms of suckiness. Despite warnings that the bill was biased and would result in discrimination, Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (or RFRA for short) into law. It’s been called a “license to discriminate” and basically allows businesses to refuse service to people if the employee/owner claims that providing service goes against their religious beliefs.
And, you know, freedom of religion is awesome, but… we already have a piece of legislation to protect that freedom: The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
We don’t need another bill. We don’t need a bill that was created because people felt threatened by the recent progress in marriage equality. Our governor claimed that its goal wasn’t discrimination, but that’s all anyone has used it for so far.
When you think about people who were denied service due to religious beliefs, you probably think about marriage, and all the things that go with it: The cake, the clothes, the venue, photography. Well, while this law certainly makes it easier to refuse those services to same-gender couples, there are plenty of other possible forms of discrimination now permitted thanks to this law.
For example, the law would make it easier to restrict women’s reproductive rights and access to healthcare. SO. NOT. COOL. It’s also possible that believers whose religion did not match that of the business owner could be discriminated against.
And finally, the law makes it legal to refuse service simply because someone who walked into a business is acting, well, queer. If you walked into a restaurant for a date and the employees didn’t like how you were acting, they could kick you out. UGH I AM SUCH A TINY SEETHING BUNDLE OF RAGE RIGHT NOW. The idea of being publicly affectionate with a girlfriend already makes me uncomfortable. Like, thinking about holding my future wife’s hand in public freaks me out because I’m worried about the whispers and the stares and the disgusted faces. I’m worried about getting beat up. And now, apparently, I’m worried about getting kicked out. UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
(And don’t even get me started all the housing discrimination this could cause! Living on my own and Being A Responsible Adult is already intimidating enough – now add the worry that someday I might not be able to buy or rent a place to live even if I had enough money and a good credit score, because I might move in with a girlfriend or wife and that might tick off someone else. Gah. #adultingisscary)
Pence may be all like “ha ha ha ha LOL this isn’t about discrimination,” but that’s certainly not how some business owners have already interpreted the law.
One case that made the national news was that of a pizza shop that brashly stated it wasn’t going to cater any same-gender weddings. Um, really? SORRY, BUT I’M CRACKING UP. I don’t know what tacky traditions straight people may have, but I’m pretty sure queer people are classy enough to not serve pizza at a freaking WEDDING. I mean, come on. That’s about as tacky as, I don’t know, buying a bunch of those miniature bags of potato chips and Doritos and whatnot and then THROWING THEM AT YOUR WEDDING GUESTS and yelling “HOW DO YOU LIKE OUR CATERING LOLOLOL.” Which is to say, very tacky.
The situation would almost be funny, except that the restaurant later raised $800,000 from supporters. Ugh. Isn’t it lovely, knowing that homophobia is alive and well?
Another example? I’m a member of the local high school’s GSA’s Facebook page, and one of the other kids who lives a few towns away posted that within two days after the law passed, she’d already seen a restaurant with a sign saying “straights only.” I can’t confirm the veracity of this statement (because I don’t live there), but it doesn’t really surprise me, either: The restaurant was a Chick-Fil-A, which is a notoriously anti-gay company.
To me the most disturbing, although unsurprising, detail is that, well… this new law doesn’t even go into affect until July. And people are already SO EAGER to use it against others. Whee.
My favorite article about this whole mess is an editorial from GayWrites. It’s a (great!) news site that basically collects articles from around the web in one place, then adds some commentary. A+. You should all check it out.
Anyway, here is my favorite article – it’s kind of an overview of the legislation – and here’s the quote that really, really resonated with me:
“There you go. You can get married in Indiana, but you can get turned away from your choice of venue, bakery, floral shop, or honeymoon suite because of who your partner is. Marriage is not the end of our movement. Marriage equality does not make us equal. We deserve equal access to the businesses and services offered to our fellow citizens. We do not deserve to be locked out of public life for being ourselves. We are not second-class – even if Indiana just enacted a law claiming we are.”
YES YES YES OMG SO MUCH YES TO THAT COMMENTARY. I am so sick and tired of this hyper-focus on marriage equality. To tell the truth, I have very little patience for people (read: mostly allies) who think marriage equality is the be-all and end-all of LGBTQ+ rights. It’s not the only issue, and it’s definitely not the most important one, either. Being legally married means literally nothing in this situation; you could still be denied service. We need to draw the focus away from The Happy Pretty Issues and spend more time on The Issues That Are Actually Damn Well Important. Such as anti-discrimination laws.
(And hate crime legislation. And homeless queer youth. And better healthcare for transgender people. And banning conversion therapy. And teaching queer history and queer sex ed in the schools. And fighting the high rates of queer poverty. And better representation in the media. And anti-bullying legislation. But I digress.)
A few days after Indiana’s first version of the RFRA was passed, the governor caved into protests – kind of – and signed an amended version of the bill. I say “kind of” because while this new version isn’t quite as bad as the prior one, it still doesn’t list sexual orientation and gender identity as legally protected classes under state law: It only offers legal protections in eleven Indiana communities where such protections already exist. Sigh.
So, yeah. I’ve been really disappointed in my home state lately; why does Indiana suck so much? I can only hope that someday – preferably someday soon – the RFRA will be repealed. You know, I think the only good that came out of this whole mess was how Mike Pence’s chances of being elected President just went waaaaaaay down. Yeah, you read that right: He’d been talking about running for the office of the President of the United States, but he’s since made a lot of people from all across the nation (and world!) majorly ticked off, so I don’t think that’ll end up happening. GOOD. I’M GLAD. God, I’m so embarrassed and irritated right now. What is my state even doing?
If you’d like to know more about my state’s RFRA, here are a few helpful links:
- Why Indiana’s RFRA is different (and worse) than the federal RFRA passed in 1993
- The full text of the RFRA
- #BoycottIndiana gained an enormous amount of popularity and it’s causing the state to lose tons of money
- Here is a full list of all the businesses, government agencies, organizations, and entertainers who are boycotting Indiana
- Equality is not real if it has exceptions
- Pence claims that both he and his law are being mischaracterized by the media
- 15 amazing responses to a homophobe’s hilariously awful #BigGay tweet about the RFRA
- “Indiana is a great place to be a bigot!” says this mock travel ad