March 23, 2015 at 8:00 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Indiana House approves sweeping religious freedom bill

Mike Pense, Republican Party, Indiana, gay news, Washington Blade

LGBT rights advocates have urged Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to veto a sweeping religious freedom bill they feel would subject gays and lesbians to discrimination. (Photo public domain).

The Indiana House of Representatives on Monday approved a bill that critics contend would allow people and business owners to ignore laws based on their religious beliefs.

The Indianapolis Star reported Senate Bill 101 passed in the Republican-controlled chamber by a 63-31 vote margin. The newspaper noted 26 Democrats and five Republicans voted against the controversial measure that would prohibit “a government entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”

The Indiana Senate last month approved a bill similar to SB 101 that is based on the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, a federal law that took effect in 1993.

Gov. Mike Pence has said he would sign SB 101 into law.

LGBT advocates and other critics of the measure say it goes far beyond the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act because it does not contain what one source described to the Washington Blade as a “clear standard of what constitutes a religious belief.”

“We’re extremely disappointed that 63 members of the Indiana House suddenly believe we need a new law to protect religious freedom that’s been enshrined in our Constitution for centuries,” said Freedom Indiana, a group that opposes SB 101, in a statement. “We all know Senate Bill 101 is about creating a license for some Hoosiers to discriminate against others in the name of faith, and we all understand that the law’s unintended consequences could harm LGBT Hoosiers, undercut our economic growth and put our children at risk.”

Lambda Legal and the National LGBTQ Task Force also urged Pence to veto the measure.

“Lawmakers in Indiana have chosen to ignore an unprecedented chorus of voices speaking out in opposition to this draconian bill,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in a statement. “The truth is, this new law will undoubtedly damage Indiana’s reputation as a welcoming place. Instead, the state will now be viewed as completely out-of-step and a place where it isn’t good to live and do business.”

SB 101 is among the dozens of Religious Freedom Restoration Acts and other anti-LGBT bills that have been introduced in state legislatures in recent months.

The Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act that would have barred the state from requiring someone to take part in a marriage ceremony that conflicts with their religious beliefs is among the eight anti-LGBT proposals that were introduced during the 2015 legislative session.

A Mississippi law that critics contend allows business owners to deny services to LGBT people based on their religious beliefs took effect in July 2014. Then-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer earlier that year vetoed a similar measure in her state.

The Idaho House of Representatives on Friday approved a non-binding resolution that urges Congress to impeach federal judges who rule in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples. The Michigan House of Representatives earlier this month approved three bills that would allow publicly-funded adoption agencies to reject prospective foster parents based on their moral or religious grounds.

A Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee in January killed a so-called “conscience clause” bill that would have allowed state licensed or accredited business owners to deny service to someone based on their religious beliefs.

Transgender rights advocates in recent weeks have begun posting “we just need to pee” selfies online response to bills that seek to force people to use public restrooms based on their biological gender.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

  • I did /NAZI/ that coming, Indiana! I wonder whether this lot of Aryan"Christians" have printed signs for the windows of stores, restaurants and service providers: Fäggoten werden hier nicht bedient. Will they /auch noch/ be providing minorities with colorful armbands so that we may be easily discriminated without putting undue burden on their free exercise of "religion", or do we have to provide our own? Will you be wearing the RF on your arm so we know who the Übermensches are who decided what is and is not tolerated in society? I dare you to.

    I must admit that I am impressed how they explicitly clarified in the bill that the belief they are acting on need not be central or even part of the religion professed, i.e.:

    Them: "God hates fags. It says so in the Bible. This is why stores must not sell them food or whatever it is the abominations consume to survive, realtors should not show or sell them homes in communities with real human beings, Samaritan helicopters should not take them to hospitals,…"

    Jesus: "That's not how it works. That's now how any of this works! It doesn't say that in the Bible. It doesn't say any of that. It says love your neighbor (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) , not shun them and starve them out (Leviticus 19:18). I said it says that loving your neighbor is the only thing you must do (Mark 12:31); that this is what it all about (Matthew 22:40, et passim)."

    Them: "How *dare* You [gasp] persecute me for my persecution of others, You hateful, whore-hugging, stone-not-throwing, hippie bigot, You! Oppression, intolerance, bullying, homosexual agenda, the moon landing was fake… My 'religious' ;) freedom trumps all other freedoms and legal rights."

    Got it: no one has the authority to say what your religion requires, but you have the authority to tell others that they are forbidden by your religion and what the Constitution really means.

    The Freedom of Religion allows one to profess any religion they choose and apply its principles to ones own lives — or not as is often the case. Religious beliefs are protected, not actions taken against others which one attempts to justify by cherry picking excerpts from religious texts (and, FYI, Jesus said it's not justified). When "traditional", religiously justified marriage discrimination preventing interracial miscegenation was struck down, the bigots responded with more creative ways to discriminate. History remembers those bigots for what they are. America must recognize these bigots who are reacting to marriage equality for what they are before we end up on the wrong side of history. Your Religious Freedom begins with how you live your life — and ends with how I live mine. That is freedom; this farce is fascism. It's not a matter of religious belief, simply the Constitution.

    There is no Freedom of Stupidity. Willful ignorance of the law is no excuse. I can't wait until the businesses start getting sued thinking their State law can protect them from complying with Federal law. They will spend years and a small fortune fighting only to lose and then have to pay reparations, just like their NAZI heroes who sacrificed themselves (and millions of others) to ensure their "freedom" over other people.

  • This is exactly what the Nazis did..start with the first step… the next steps I don't want to know…history repeats once again…

  • They coat it with titles Americans love to salivate over. Terms like 'liberty', 'freedom', 'protection', or 'family', when it's merely a fancy coated piece of hate legislation. Fearful and ignorant…toting lighted torches, pitchforks, and the sign of the cross.

  • WTG Indiana. It is about time someone took a moral stand on what is right and what is wrong. This is not 'hate legislation.' It merely protects businesses that have ownership with certain religious beliefs from having to support beliefs that not theirs. For examples: 1) A minister was sued here in Albuquerque because they refused to wed a gay couple. 2) Another was a flower Shop that refused to supply flowers to a gay couple based on the fact that her religious beliefs made it impossible to support such a union. If people want acceptance and tolerance they need to be acceptable and tolerant as well. If you want your beliefs then you have to let others have theirs. It works both ways. The Bible makes it clear that homosexuality is NOT acceptable: it is a sin and will condemn a person to Hell. God Bless Indiana for getting it right.

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