Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and their allies are celebrating Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s decision to amend, or ‘fix’ the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The initial law was passed on March 25, 2015 and revised on April 2, 2015 after the uproar that resulted in performers canceling shows in the state, businesses canceling planned projects, conferences changing venues, and more than a few local and state governments banning official travel to Indiana unless it was a dire situation.
Neither side of the culture war is happy with the new RFRA. Liberals say changes did not go far enough. Conservatives say changes went too far. The online directory Angie’s List has no plans to reinstate its Indianapolis campus expansion, which was canceled because the company disagreed with the passage of the RFRA. “Our position is that this ‘fix’ is insufficient,” Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle said in a statement on April 2. He felt that without a complete repeal of the RFRA meant LGBT people would not be guaranteed safety from discrimination. Pence’s fix would, however, mark the first time in Indiana history that any legal protections have been awarded to LGBT people. Law professor Mark Rienzi countered that this new fix permits Indiana to criminally prosecute Christians who elect not to provide services to a same-sex wedding on religious grounds.
A Walkton, IN pizzeria, Memories Pizza, has temporarily closed after receiving threats. The owner’s claims were confirmed by their local police department. It was due to the owner’s decision to not cater same-sex weddings on the grounds of religious belief. This pronouncement was broadcast on local TV and owners say that is when threats began.
A Go Fund Me campaign has raised $842,387, all from anonymous donors. Its stated goal is to “help the family stave off the burdensome cost of having the media parked out front, activists tearing them down, and no customers coming in.” The shop still has not reopened and the owners are unsure if it ever will.
While many LGBT people and their allies celebrated the ‘fix’, some conservatives decried it. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said much of the Indiana backlash was led by ‘the militant gay community’, a group whose ideas did not represent most Americans. He also stated that the reason so many big companies boycotted Indiana was that strident members of the LGBT community put pressure on them to do so. Huckabee said that he found it “a little hypocritical” that companies which do business with known human rights abusers such as China and Saudi Arabia joined the Indiana boycott over the RFRA.
The RFRA amendment is now the law in Indiana. Many LGBT people and their allies are celebrating the ‘fix’. While many conservatives are upset at what they perceive as an infringement upon their religious liberty, both sides of the debate expect that this subject will be revisited on either a local, state, or national level – perhaps all three – in the future.
By Martina Robinson
Photo by House GOP Flickr License