March 31, 2015
Governor Mike Pence of Indiana has finally signed the controversial religious freedom bill. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed following two days of intense pressure from opponents which include convention organizers and technology company executives. They believe that this step will promote discrimination, especially against gays and lesbians. Gov. Pence however believes this will not be a case. He clarifies that this bill is not about discrimination because if that was the case, he would never let it go through.
The bill in question essentially prohibits state and local governments from burdening an individual’s ability to exercise his or her religion. The bill comes into effect July 1.
The bill does not mention sexual orientation. However, those opposing the bill fear that it may allow business owners to deny services to gays and lesbians for religious reasons. The issue has generated significant debate in Indiana. Some believe the bill is a reaction to last year’s push to enshrine a same-sex marriage ban in Indiana. Among those who pushed hardest for this ban include Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana, Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute and Eric Miller of Advance America.
Miller of Advance America seems optimistic about the bill. “”It is vitally important to protect religious freedom in Indiana,” Miller said in a statement after the bill signing. “It was therefore important to pass Senate Bill 101 in 2015 in order to help protect churches, Christian businesses and individuals from those who want to punish them because of their Biblical beliefs!”
Pence rejects any suggestions that SB 101 has been implemented because of the failure to pass the gay marriage ban last year. The bill is still heavily opposed and has even captured the attention of celebrities and national and international news outlasts. Novelist John Green, television personality Montel Williams, Star Trek actor George Takei and Colts punter Pat McAfee all oppose the measure. There have been numerous calls to the governor’s office in protest of the bill.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has announced that he would no longer send any of his employees or customers to Indiana. NCAA President Mark Emmert has expressed concerns about how this bill will affect future events in Indiana. The city’s largest convention Gen Con has also threatened to take its 56,000 attendees to another state once its contract with the Indiana Convention Center expires in 2020. Pence however is assuring everyone that the bill is not about legalizing discrimination. It is simply about giving courts guidance and establishing standards that already exist at the federal level.