RFRA Fix: Historic Step or Too Little, Too Late?
After a week of national public scrutiny, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the amended Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Thursday. Initially criticized by opponents as a license to discriminate, the law was changed to ensure it cannot be used to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents in public accommodation, housing or employment.
Jennifer Wagner, communications director for Freedom Indiana, said it’s a step in the right direction.
“It’s been a tough week to be a Hoosier,” she said. “But at the end of the day we have managed to bring attention to the fact that LGBT Hoosiers are not protected right now under state civil-rights law.”
Jeannie DiClementi, an associate professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne, said the so-called fix is too little, too late.
“The damage has already been done,” she said. “Our concern is feeling like Indiana is a safe place to go to school and to work, and that bell has been rung. The message that’s out there is that this is a very hostile place for LGBTQ persons.”
Supporters claimed the law was intended to protect people with sincerely held religious beliefs, and had encouraged Pence to veto the changes.
Wagner said efforts now will turn to ensuring statewide protection for LGBT individuals in regard to discrimination, accommodation and housing.
“The fix was to make sure that the RFRA could not be applied to discrimination in those areas,” she said, “but we need that protection in state law for LGBT Hoosiers.”
Instead of reacting to controversy, DiClementi said, the state should proactively protect all people.
“Not just recognize the diversity, but embrace the diversity,” she said. “This is how industries works, this is how universities work, this is how government works is by embracing diversity to represent everybody.”
In signing the clarification bill, Pence said, “Resolving this controversy, making clear that every person feels welcome and respected in our state, is best for Indiana.”
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