Just this past October, Indiana became one of several states that legally recognizes same-sex marriages. For a state that had been reluctant to address the issue for years, the move proved that there was indeed hope on the horizon for LGBTQ individuals within Indiana borders.
Now months later, the rights that had been restored to LGBTQ Hoosiers are being stripped away once again, and I don't think the sequence of the two events is any coincidence. Enter: The Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was signed by Indiana governor Mike Pence on Thursday morning.
It's ironic that such a bill is dubbed the religious "freedom" bill when it literally strips away the freedom of individual people. According to the Associated Press, the legislation -- also known as Senate Bill 101 -- will "prevent state laws that 'substantially burden' the ability of people, including businesses and associations, to follow their religious beliefs." In other words, it will now be legal for businesses in Indiana to refuse service to individuals based on their personal, religious beliefs.
While it's clear how the new bill will discriminate against the LGBTQ community, many people don't realize just how many other groups of people are going to be negatively affected by its passing. According to Freedom Indiana, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act could allow police officers, firefighters and even school counselors to refuse service to individuals on the grounds of their religious beliefs. Additionally, the law could "roll back protections for children at child care ministries," and "allow a man to claim that certain domestic violence laws don't apply to him because his religion teaches him that a husband has a right to discipline his wife and children as he sees fit."
While the ability to express one's religious beliefs is of crucial importance, and one of the greatest aspects of freedom in our country, it should never come at the cost of discrimination against other people -- whether it's regarding their sexual orientation, race, gender or any other factor. Regardless of your religious beliefs, I feel like this is something we can definitely all agree on.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. As I consider the horrifying and impending reality of people literally being refused service based on their sexual orientation and religion, I can't help but draw comparisons between now and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Despite all the time that has passed, the approval of the bill would serve as yet another reminder of how little progress we've made as a country in terms of basic human rights.
Although Indiana is the first state to follow through with the passing of the bill, several other states have debated similar legislation. In fact, the first RFRA was signed into law by Clinton in 1993 and continues to be applied to the federal government. However, individual states can determine their interpretation of RFRA on a local level. This is why I find it frustrating that in a time where numerous states are deciding to legally recognize same-sex marriage, the efforts are being halted and even contradicted by actions such as the religious freedom bill.
As a young adult attempting to come to terms with the situation myself, I feel genuine pain for the parents, teachers and other mentors that are faced with the task of informing and explaining the bill to young people across the country. Although it may be difficult to discuss, it is essential that we continue to inform others about the situation in hopes that we can prevent it from spreading to any other states. The startling repetition of history has me fearing not only for the LGBTQ community but for the future of human rights in general. It is truly terrifying to think of society functioning with the presence of such structured and legalized discrimination.
Despite the bleakness of the situation, I have hope that it will in some ways take care of itself. After all, if you are a business who has the audacity to put up a sign declaring your willingness to discriminate against potential customers, people -- whether or not they are victims of the discrimination -- are going to take their money somewhere else, simple as that. Indianapolis and surrounding cities that historically benefitted from conventions are going to suffer economically. Not to mention, GenCon and the NCAA have both already voiced concerns regarding hosting their future events in Indy.
If losing basketball is what it takes to get people pissed off about this, then so be it. As long as they're pissed, then we're moving in the right direction.