Indiana Governor Pence testing the waters for raising “right to discriminate” bill from the dead

They really can’t let this one go, can they?

Indiana Governor Mike Pence is reportedly meeting with business leaders in the state regarding taking another crack at making it even more legal than it already is in Indiana to discriminate against LGBT people.

You’ll remember that we went through all of this in the Spring. It didn’t go well for Governor Pence. After getting smacked around by the media, celebrities, the general public and, most importantly, a number of large businesses — including the officially-not-for-profit-wink-wink NCAA — Governor Pence eventually decided that, no, it might not be such a good idea to carve out a legal right for Indianan business owners to refuse service to people they identify as sinful.

This time around, though, Pence is returning to the legislative battlefield a session older and, he apparently thinks, wiser. Not one to be blindsided by the Big Gay Lobby twice, he’s meeting with businesses in order to figure out how to keep them from torpedoing his bill this time around. According to local ABC affiliate WRTV, “A source close to those meetings said the governor has reportedly been discussing what’s known as the “Utah Compromise” – a Utah law that prohibits discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but doesn’t create a special class for other purposes.”

The problem here is that Utah’s law, while providing workplace and housing protections, grants Utahans the right to discriminate in places of public accommodations, which have been the top social conservative bugaboo ever since marriage equality passed. It is now perfectly legal in Utah for florists, bakers, photographers and pizza makers to tell LGBT people that they don’t want their money. Pence thinks that as long as he marries that right to discriminate with protections in the workplace and in housing, it’ll all be cool.

Luckily, it isn’t. Pence’s half-dead zombie RFRA is getting about the same reaction from the business community this time around (at least publicly, so far) as the fully-fledged version got the last time. From the Courier-Journal:

Mike Pence caricature, via DonkeyHotey / Flickr

Mike Pence caricature, via DonkeyHotey / Flickr

“After RFRA,” said former Angie’s List chief Bill Oesterle, “that’s a horrible half-solution.”

Legislation modeled after the Utah law, he said, would be “completely unpalatable to me.” And lawmakers, he added, would be naive to think those weaker laws would be enough to repair the state’s battered reputation.

He, and others including Eli Lilly & Co. and the NCAA, say they want stronger protections of LGBT rights than the Utah compromise afforded — including in businesses open to the public.

And there’s no indication that the Utah compromise would please opponents of LGBT rights, either. They oppose any extension of rights based on sexual orientation or gender identity without broadly allowing for individual objections.

As with all zombies, it appears as though the only way to neutralize Indiana’s RFRA is to get rid of its head, which in this case is Governor Pence. And guess what? His religious freedom stunt from earlier this year tanked his favorability numbers.

Please proceed, governor.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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15 Responses to “Indiana Governor Pence testing the waters for raising “right to discriminate” bill from the dead”

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  2. crazymonkeylady says:

    Perhaps Pence will fall on his sword and make Hoosiers happy.

  3. Doug105 says:

    While I can see the attraction,

  4. BeccaM says:

    Your religious rights should end where someone else’s civil rights begin. For some reason, this detail eludes the Bible-humpers and god-botherers.

  5. Thom Allen says:

    Pence just doesn’t get it. He’s not even sitting at the Kiddie Table at the debates now because of the response the RFRA. What’s he hoping to do to his sunken career now by resurrecting this? Pence seems to have a flat learning curve.

  6. 2karmanot says:

    I’d follow Jeebus anywhere

  7. 2karmanot says:

    Consider: Raspberry VS pppfffttt

  8. pogden297 says:

    You need to read Employment Division v. Smith (1990) which basically gutted constitutional protections for religious freedom. So, no, the Constitution does not protect religious freedom anymore. That’s why state legislatures, and Congress, went about adopting laws to do that in the absence of that constitutional protection.

  9. pogden297 says:

    Obviously you don’t have a law background. The “religious freedom stunt” was the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. RFRA has been adopted in 20 other states, states such as Maryland and Illinois, and exists in 10 other states by judicial decision. It is also at the national level, passed nearly unanimously by Congress and signed by President Clinton. RFRA simply restores the Sherbert compelling interest test for Free Exercise cases that existed prior to Employment Division v. Smith handed down in the early 90’s. Not once has a RFRA, anywhere, been used to override an anti-discrimination law. I was at a RFRA panel at our local law school. The panel was unanimous (including the ACLU attorney on it) that Indiana’s RFRA, like all the other RFRAs before it, had no impact on anti-discrimination laws. As any honest attorney who knows the subject will tell you, the only thing that matters is how an anti-discrimination law is written. That you wish for anti-discrimination laws to allow for discrimination against people’s religious beliefs says a lot. I guess for you, tolerance is not a two way street.

  10. Indigo says:

    The local newspaper can’t be bothered to print the story of “the pastor protection act” so the local gay paper prints it instead:

    http://www.watermarkonline.com/2015/10/06/florida-pastor-protection-act-up-for-vote/

  11. Governor Pence is going to be in a tough reelection fight in 2016. His numbers don’t bode well for him, so he is trying for a “Hail Mary” that makes no one happy.

  12. Don Chandler says:

    The ‘family values’ scam was never about preserving marriage or protecting children. It was always about making gays into second class citizens.

  13. MoonDragon says:

    Pence: “The people who vote for me can’t pull up their big boy/girl pants and accept that people who don’t agree with everything they think is true won’t infect them with cooties.” We are, after all, talking about people who are so insecure in their belief systems that they cannot abide anything that might demonstrate that they may not be correct. They need constant and unquestioning support of their world view to avoid dissolvnig into puddles of quivering, runny despair.

  14. Indigo says:

    A similar bill is pending in the Florida legislature. Apparently, they don’t understand that freedom of religion is guaranteed in the constitution. No clergy person is ever required to preside over any proceed to which they object for any reason. I don’t like your politics, I will not preside over a goat sacrifice for the success of your project. It’s that easy.

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