Indiana House Passes Bill To Make LGBT Couples Less Equal Than Everyone Else

A bill designed to protect religious freedom is wending its way through the Indiana legislature, and has cleared its biggest hurdle thus far. Today, Indiana’s House passed the bill 63-31, mostly along party lines, and, if signed into law, it would then be legal for businesses to refuse to serve same-sex couples on religious grounds.

The Indiana Star says that Indiana’s Senate approved a similar bill last month, and the author of that bill, Dennis Kruse, said that he plans to concur with this bill. If the Senate passes it, it will then go to Gov. Mike Pence to sign into law.

According to the Star, the bill would prohibit the government from “substantially burdening” a person’s beliefs unless they can demonstrate a clear and compelling reason to do so. Then they have to choose the least restrictive means of exercising their burden.

The Star reports that the bill has divided the business community, religious leaders, and even some lawmakers. Rep. Bruce Borders (R) said that “do all things unto the Lord” means that people need to be able to practice their religions in their work, too (and if that means refusing service to someone because they’re gay, then so be it, apparently). By contrast, Rep. Ed DeLaney (D) said that his prophet (Christ) had dinner with hookers, and served all people. The implication is, why shouldn’t Christians follow Christ’s footsteps and serve all people as well?

This is similar to other bills in other states that were intended to do the same thing. Arizona passed one last year like this, and Gov. Brewer vetoed it. According to The New York Times, other states that have tried this have gotten pushback from businesses and pro-business conservatives, because the laws could lead to massive boycotts of businesses who exercise their newfound “freedom.” It could also hurt their states’ reputations.

But it really is a pro-discrimination bill, not a religious freedom bill. The Times quoted Oklahoma State Senator David Silk (R ) as saying the following about this issue for Oklahoma:

“The L.G.B.T. movement is the main thing, the primary thing that’s going to be challenging religious liberties and the freedom to live out religious convictions. And I say that sensitively, because I have homosexual friends.”

He also put forth this damning statement, according to the Times:

“[Gay people] don’t have a right to be served in every single store. People need to have the ability to refuse service if its [sic] violates their religious convictions.”

Why not? Everybody else has that right, and that’s the problem with these laws. They legalize discrimination based on something somebody can’t help. The Human Rights Campaign says, according to the Times, that these laws could allow anybody to sue a state, or the federal government, over enforcement of a nondiscrimination law on religious grounds. Most of these laws don’t specifically name the LGBT community, or any group of individuals, that the religious can discriminate against, so there’s a clear slippery slope here.

There’s also the possibility this could backfire spectacularly in the religious right’s face. While the Human Rights Campaign is primarily concerned about Christians using their faith to discriminate against the LGBT community, or Jews or divorcees or Muslims, it’d be interesting to see what people of other faiths start suing for, and where those cases go. This could open up a huge can of worms that those who think religious liberty only applies to Christians don’t even see.

Sadly, it looks like this will probably be signed into law in Indiana. Depending on how the Supreme Court rules on the same-sex marriage cases before them, we could see a renewed fervor for these kinds of laws. We could also see lawsuits against states for these laws, especially if someone who isn’t Christian sues because they had to violate their religious freedom.

Featured image by Rika Christensen/Liberalistics