It’s a good day for people who believe in minding their own business and letting other people live their lives without be harassed by nosy theocrats. It’s just so much fun seeing a nasty bully like Mike Pence get his just desserts.
This morning the Indianapolis Star broke the news that GOP state legislators have come up with a “fix” for the awful “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” they passed just a short time ago. The proposed changes to the law include the following language:
[T]he new “religious freedom” law does not authorize a provider — including businesses or individuals — to refuse to offer or provide its services, facilities, goods, or public accommodation to any member of the public based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, or military service.
The law will also include protections for people seeking employment and housing.
Churches and other religious non-profit organizations will still be allowed to discriminate, however.
Early signs are that neither side will be satisfied with the proposed changes.
The clarifying language is likely to rile socially conservative advocacy groups, which hold significant sway among Republicans at the Statehouse and pushed hard for the religious freedom law after a failed legislative effort last year to enshrine a same-sex marriage ban in the state constitution.
Leaders of three of those groups — the American Family Association of Indiana, the Indiana Family Institute, and Advance America — declined comment or did not return messages from The Star Wednesday.
But in an email update to supporters from the AFA’s Micah Clark, he urged them to contact their state senators and to pray for legislators.
“At this very moment, the Indiana Senate is considering “water-down” language to the recently passed and pro-religious-liberty bill, Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” the email says. “Homosexual activists are demanding Christian business owners in Indiana be forced to compromise their faith.”
Groups who oppose the law itself won’t be happy either.
“We understand that lawmakers are working to ‘fix’ the Indiana RFRA that has done so much harm to Indiana over the past week, but we want to make it clear that we need full protection from discrimination against all LGBT Hoosiers across the state and a guarantee that this RFRA cannot be used to undermine any nondiscrimination protections,” Katie Blair, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, said in a statement. “According to current media reports, the proposal being considered falls far short of these principles, leaving the door wide open for discrimination.”
The prospect of the clarifying language also failed to prevent the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) from following through Wednesday on its threat of relocating its 6,000-person 2017 convention from Indianapolis because of the new law.
Spokeswoman Cherilyn Williams told The Indianapolis Star that church officials were unsure a legislative fix currently being considered would be adequate to address all of their concerns. The state’s lack of anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and sexual identity, in particular soured them on Indiana.
“We’re not sure the fix will be adequate to address all of our concerns, and we felt like we needed to move ahead to allow the hotels to make arrangements,” Williams said.
One of the businesses that strongly opposes the bill is prescription drug giant Eli Lilly. Lilly and two other corporations have been threatened with stock disinvestment by huge medical foundation The California Endowment.
Honestly, I wish I could paste the entire article from the Indy Star here. But I’ve already quoted too much. Please go to the link if you want more.
Remember the “christian” pizza place that JJ wrote about yesterday? Well, they’re close for the time being, according to TMZ:
Memories Pizza — the first Indiana business to declare it would refuse LGBT business — got blasted on the Internet and by phone, but the owner says there’s been a huge misunderstanding … sorta.
Kevin O’Connor tells TMZ he’s had to temporarily close his business after he told a reporter he would refuse to cater a gay wedding under Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. O’Connor says he was immediately flooded by threatening phone calls, and social media postings.
O’Connor wants to clear up one thing: He says he would never deny service to gay people in his restaurant. However, due to his religious beliefs, he does not believe in gay marriage … and that’s why he wouldn’t service one.
I wonder how many heterosexual weddings this guy has catered? I’d love to see the photos.
As for Mike Pence, Politico has an article with this blaring headline: The Week Mike Pence’s 2016 Dreams Crumbled.
Pence is in trouble, because there is already collateral damage.
At least 10 national conventions are threatening to pull out of commitments to meeting in Indianapolis, according to city tourism officials, who have spent late nights talking down convention organizers in an attempt to keep a grip on the industry that brings in $4.4 billion annually and supports 75,000 jobs. Comedian Nick Offerman and indie band Wilco scuttled upcoming engagements here. Even NASCAR, not known for leftie or social-justice bona fides, expressed disappointment in the legislation.
And just days before the NCAA Final Four Championship is set to tip off, a different kind of March Madness has settled over the city. NCAA President Mark Emmert expressed doubts about maintaining its Indianapolis headquarters—a short walk from the Statehouse.
In a hastily called news conference on Tuesday, Pence—usually keen on playing the happy warrior in public—looked wan and defeated, though his hair was still shaped into its perfect and immoveable silver part. At some turns, in a dulcet tone, Pence employed a humble tack, suggesting the law needed “a fix” and admitting that his defensive performance in a Sunday appearance with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” likely made things worse (“I could have handled that better,” Pence told reporters). At others, he defended the religious freedom bill, criticizing press coverage of it as “reckless” and “sloppy,” and said he harbored no regrets in signing it.
“It’s been a tough week here in the Hoosier State, but we’re going to move forward,” Pence assured state and national media who had gathered at the Indiana State Library, an unconventional choice for a news conference but a sop to the national interest in the roiling imbroglio. Pence’s regular briefing area wasn’t large enough to accommodate reporters who had descended on the city. (Even Olympic diver Greg Louganis, in town to promote a new book with the mother of Ryan White, the Kokomo teen who died of AIDS 25 years ago this month, surfaced at the presser, ambling around with his black and white Jack Russell terrier, Dobby.)
Ha Ha Ha!!!!
Meanwhile, GOP legislators in Arkansas passed a law that was described in the media as identical to Indiana’s; but according to Nelson Tebbe at Balkinization, it will actually have much worse effects. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, no doubt wanting to avoid the public shaming that Pence has experienced, sent the law back to lawmakers for changes.
Yesterday, the Arkansas legislature passed a state RFRA and sent it to Governor Hutchinson. Today, the governor sent the bill back to the legislature, asking for language that is closer to the federal RFRA. Arkansas is being compared to Indiana, whose RFRA has drawn a firestorm of criticism. But in fact Arkansas law poses a greater danger to civil rights—and that is true regardless of whether the Arkansas RFRA is passed and what it ends up saying. That is because of another law, enacted recently, that prohibits localities from passing LGBT anti-discrimination measures. Considering the overall legal landscape in the state, it is unlikely that any changes in the RFRA bill will improve the grim situation for LGBT citizens of Arkansas.
Start with the current text of the Arkansas RFRA bill, which shares troubling features with Indiana’s law and is even broader in some respects. Most significantly, the Arkansas law is applicable in suits between private parties, just like the Indiana RFRA. As two of us have recently explained, those provisions are designed to change the legal analysis of cases where wedding vendors have refused service to same-sex couples in violation of local civil rights protections.
Other aspects of the Arkansas RFRA bill are even broader than Indiana’s. For example, the Arkansas law protects all corporations and other legal entities, while Indiana’s law only applies to those where the religious beliefs are held by individuals “who have control and substantial legal ownership of the entity.” Moreover, a substantial burden on religion can only be justified under the Arkansas approach if it can be shown that applying the burden “in this particular instance” is “essential” to furthering a compelling governmental interest. Both of the quoted phrases are new to Arkansas. Whether either would matter in litigation is uncertain.
But what makes the Arkansas situation more troubling than the one in Indiana has little to do with the details of the RFRA bill. It is the way the new RFRA interacts with another new Arkansas law. Act 137, which became law in late February of 2015, provides that “A county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state shall not adopt or enforce an ordinance, resolution, rule, or policy that creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law.” In other words, localities within Arkansas may not pass anti-discrimination measures that protect LGBT citizens in employment, housing, or public accommodations—because state law does not provide such protections. Arkansas’s stated interest in passing the law was legal uniformity among jurisdictions within the state.
Scary. I don’t think Hutchinson has much chance of being POTUS, but he probably doesn’t want his state to replace Indiana in the national media spotlight either.
So it’s a good day so far. Let’s enjoy the schaedenfreude while we can.
What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread.