Indiana Restaurant Already Bragging About Discriminating Against Gay People Following ‘Religious Liberty’ Bill

Indiana’s governor has insisted that his state’s new “Religious Liberty” law isn’t about discriminating against gay people. If that’s true, somebody better tell Indiana’s bigots, because they’re certainly acting like it is.

Just days after Indiana’s republican legislature passed and its Republican governor, Mike Pence, signed a bill that would allow business owners to legally discriminate against gay people without repercussions, a restaurant owner called into a local radio show to proudly boast that he is already enjoying the benefits of protected intolerance.

Pence has been adamant that the law isn’t about any specific group, instead he insists the bill is simply protecting religious people from having to go against their faith by serving people they disagree with. If that sounds an awful lot like giving conservative Christians a free pass to not serve gay people, then congratulations, you are more self-aware than Governor Pence.

Pence on ABC Sunday responded to the fury by saying it’s all been just one big misunderstanding. “I understand there’s been a tremendous amount of misunderstanding and misinterpretation,” he told host George Stephanopoulos. Pence, to make things more clear, plans to support new legislation that would aim to “clarify” the law. [source]

He might want to first clarify the law to Indianans who are already using it to justify their bigoted business practices. While many conservatives defended the law by suggesting people were blowing the implications out of proportion, that narrative appears to be unraveling. As Think Progress found, it’s already starting according to one owner.

The business owner, who would not give his name or the name of his business, said he had told some LGBT “people” that equipment was broken in his restaurant and he couldn’t serve them even though it wasn’t and other people were already eating at the tables. “So, yes, I have discriminated,” he told RadioNOW 100.9 hosts. The hosts were surprised the owner said he was okay with discriminating.

“Well, I feel okay with it because it’s my place of business, I pay the rent, I’ve built it with all my money and my doing. It’s my place; I can do whatever I want with it,” he said. “They can have their lifestyle and do their own thing in their own place or with people that want to be with them.”

You’ll notice that this is an identical argument to the one racists used in the Jim Crow south in order to justify not serving black people prior to federal legislation that forbade discrimination against a race of people regardless of a business owner’s “beliefs.” Other than that sexual orientation is not, as of yet, a federally protected status, it is unclear how a law like this can stand up to the long-established practice of non-discrimination.

Not willing to simply allow Indiana to pass regressive legislation without consequence, many people and companies – both within Indiana and nationally – have moved to protest the law. Several major conferences and conventions have been moved to other states, costing Indiana millions of dollars in revenue. Meanwhile, within the state, business owners who don’t believe it is right to discriminate against gay people have begun posting signs in their establishments announcing, “This business serves everyone.


Image via CBS Chicago


It’s sad that something that should be as uncontroversial as having the decency to serve any customer regardless of their background, now becomes a political statement against toxic intolerance. Even sadder: other states appear to be giddy over Indiana’s trailblazing efforts and have introduced similar legislation.


Feature image via Donkeyhotey/Flickr