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Religious Tolerance logo

State religious freedom to discriminate laws

Part 10: 2015-APR in Indiana:
Legislature passes new bill to clarify RFRA law.
Governor signs the new bill into law
Reactions to both Indiana bills:

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This topic is a continuation of the previous essay

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2015-APR-02: Indiana Legislature passes new bill to partially update the RFRA law; Governor signs it into law:

Senate Bill 50 was written as a separate piece of legislation to "clarify" the intent of the original bill SB 1010 which Governor Mike Pence had previously signed into law on MAR-26. With blinding speed, the new bill was passed by the Indiana House with a vote of 66 to 30. It was passed by the Senate 34 to 16. Governor Pence signed it into law -- all on APR-02. The governor, then left for a vacation to Europe.

The main change created by the new law is that a few existing municipal human rights ordinances in Indianapolis and a very few other Indiana cities will continue to protect persons from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Human Rights Campaign -- a leading national pro-equality group -- created a graphic stating that In these few cities:

  • "Employment: A private, secular employer can no longer cite their personal religion as the reason that they fired or refused to hire an LGBT person.

  • Housing: A landlord can no longer cite their personal religion as the reason that they refused to rent to or evicted an LGBT person.

  • Public Accommodations: A restaurant owner can no longer cite their personal religion as the reason they refused service to an LGBT person."

However, Senate Bill 50 does not address other critical areas anywhere in the state, such as:

  • "Healthcare: A private pharmacist could still cite their personal religious beliefs as the reason for denying a legitimate prescription to an LGBT person seeking HIV medication, hormone therapy, or to a lesbian couple seeking fertility drugs.

  • Education: A parent could still sue an individual teacher for intervening when their child harasses another child that is perceived to be LGBT." 7

It is important to realize that most businesses are located -- and about 80% of members of the LGBT community live -- in areas not covered by municipal human rights legislation that protects the LGBT community. 7 Thus, the vast majority of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender individuals and transsexuals will continue to have no protection against any form of discrimination by businesses.

The state of Indiana does have state-wide human rights laws that protect people from discrimination based on their race, gender, religion, etc. However. these laws do not protect persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Thus, even with Bill 50 in place, businesses will continue to be able to discriminate against the vast majority of LGBTs throughout the state with impunity. This situation will probably continue until the state adds sexual orientation and gender identity to their human rights legislation as additional protected classes. There is no indication that this will happen anytime soon.

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Reactions to the law from a variety of sources:

  • From the Heritage Foundation:

    Ryan T. Anderson, of the Heritage Foundation writing for a conservative Christian news outlet CNSNEWS, said:

    "The religious liberty law is good policy. It needs no 'fix.'

    And the proposed 'fix' amounts to nothing less than a wholesale repeal of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act with respect to those who need religious liberty protections the most.

    The 'fix' is bad public policy that explicitly exempts sexual orientation and gender identity laws from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act except with respect to a narrow class of nonprofit religious organizations and their agents. The 'fix' specifically targets the millions of other religious Americans who wish to live their lives in accordance with their faith values, free from government coercion." 5

    As is usual for social and religious conservatives, the writer doesn't seem to consider the Golden Rule to be part of "faith values." That rule, as stated by Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) requires his followers to treat other people as they would like other people to treat them. Since people generally don't like to be discriminated against, this would seem to imply that retail outlets and other "public accommodations" should not discriminate against anyone.

  • From the Human Rights Campaign -- a pro-marriage equality group:

Chad Griffin, the President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) who is himself a native of Arkansas, said:  

"The people of Arkansas spoke up in opposition to a discriminatory, mean-spirited bill, and the state's leaders backed away from the cliff. Today, LGBT Arkansans are still unequal, and today’s battle points toward a broader struggle ahead -- a fight where full and complete equality for all Arkansans that cannot be undermined is the only acceptable outcome. Today, we double down on that commitment, and those fighting for equality in the Natural State should feel encouraged that their efforts can and do make a difference." 8

Sarah Warbelow, the Legal Director of HRC, said:  

"The fact remains that the only way to ensure LGBT Arkansans are treated equally under state law is to add explicit protections for them. Moving forward, Arkansas should explicitly clarify that the RFRA cannot be used to undermine non-discrimination protections at any level.  In addition, all states and the federal government should provide explicit non-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, while well-intentioned, has been used in recent years to justify problematic behavior that harms third parties. We remain concerned that the federal RFRA and bills modeled after it may be used to undermine protections for the LGBT community and other minority groups. This new legislation ... could be used to undermine existing and future civil rights laws in the state, and that is unacceptable." 8

  • By a coalition of more than 100 Tech Industry Leaders:

The following statement was signed by the CEOs or Presidents of Cisco, Consumer Electronics Association, Ebay, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Groupon, Intuit, Linkedin, Microsoft, Netflix, Netsuite, PayPal, Pinterest, Symantec, Twitter, Yahoo!, Youtube, and more than 80 more:

"The values of diversity, fairness and equality are central to our industry. These values fuel creativity and inspiration, and those in turn make the U.S. technology sector the most admired in the world today.

We believe it is critically important to speak out about proposed bills and existing laws that would put the rights of minorities at risk. The transparent and open economy of the future depends on it, and the values of this great nation are at stake.

Religious freedom, inclusion, and diversity can co-exist and everyone including LGBT people and people of faith should be protected under their states’ civil rights laws. No person should have to fear losing their job or be denied service or housing because of who they are or whom they love.

However, right now those values are being called into question in states across the country. In more than twenty states, legislatures are considering legislation that could empower individuals or businesses to discriminate against LGBT people by denying them service if it they felt it violated their religious beliefs.

To ensure no one faces discrimination and ensure everyone preserves their right to live out their faith, we call on all legislatures to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes to their civil rights laws and to explicitly forbid discrimination or denial of services to anyone.

Anything less will only serve to place barriers between people, create hurdles to creativity and inclusion, and smother the kind of open and transparent society that is necessary to create the jobs of the future. Discrimination is bad for business and that’s why we've taken the time to join this joint statement." 9,10

(Emphasis by this webmaster.)

  • And finally, by President Barack Obama (D):
    • On 2015-APR-01, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said:

      "I do think in the mind of the president, the thought that we would have state legislatures in the 21st century in the United States of America passing laws that would use religion to try to justify discriminating against people for who they love is unthinkable." 11

    • On APR-07, at the White House Easter prayer breakfast, President Obama may have been referring to the various state RFRA bills when he said:

      "On Easter, I do reflect that as a Christian, I am supposed to love. I have to say that sometimes, when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that’s a topic for another day. ... Where there is injustice, we defend the oppressed. Where there is disagreement, we treat each other with compassion and respect. Where there are differences, we find strength in our common humanity, knowing that we are all children of God. ... Isn’t it how Jesus lived? Isn’t that how he loved? Embracing those that were different. Serving the marginalized. Humbling himself to the last. This is the example we are called to follow. To love him with all our hearts, mind and soul and to love our neighbors, all our neighbors, as ourselves." 12

      Within 7 hours of time that The Blaze published President Obama's comments, readers had posted over 500 comments of their own. You might wish to avoid reading them unless you have a very strong stomach. 12

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Present and future status of the LGBT community in Indiana:

A few cities in Indiana, like Indianapolis, have human rights legislation that does protect the LGBT community from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. As a result of the new law, these ordinances are still effective, but will only cover about 20% of the LGBT community in the state.

All lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals in Indiana will only be protected from discrimination if either:

  • All municipalities and counties pass similar human rights legislation, or

  • The state modifies its existing human rights legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

As noted above, both of these are unlikely to happen any time soon in Indiana.

Any economic damage caused by companies refusing to do business in Indiana will continue, and will be self-inflicted by Indiana's state and local governments. Also, because faith groups have been playing a leading role in preserving discrimination against sexual minorities in the "Natural State," the existing high level of exodus from conservative faith groups by older teens and young adults will probably accelerate -- again a self-inflicted loss.

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This concludes religious freedom to discriminate in Indiana, for now.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Domenico Montanaro, "Indiana Law: Sorting Fact From Fiction From Politics," National Public Radio at:
  2. Text of the federal RFRA, HR 1308, Federal Government, 1993, at:
  3. "Senate Enrolled Act #101," Indiana General Assembly, 2015, at:
  4. Mollie Reilly, "Arnold Schwarzenegger 'Furious' Over GOP Support For Indiana Religious Freedom Law," Huffington Post, 2015-APR-03, at:
  5. Ryan T. Anderson, "Indiana’s RFRA Fix Equivalent to Wholesale Repeal; RFRA Needs No ‘Fix’," CNSNEWS, 2015-APR-03, at:
  6. "Exclusive: Jason Collings on Indiana's RFRA," Yahoo! Sports, 2015-APR-04, at:
  7. Stephen Peters, "Indiana Governor Pence Signs Measure Limiting Damage of RFRA, but LGBT Hoosiers Remain at Risk," Human Rights Campaign, 2015-APR-02, at:
  8. Adam Talbot, "New Arkansas RFRA Still Empowers Discrimination," Human Rights Campaign, 2015-APR-02, at:
  9. "Coalition Of More Than 100 Leaders In Tech Industry Call For Nationwide LGBT Civil Rights Protections," Instinct magazine, 2015-APR-06, at:
  10. Stephen Peters, "More Than 100 Tech Leaders Call for Nationwide LGBT Non-Discrimination Protections," Human Rights Campaign, 2015-APR-06, at:
  11. "White House: Obama Finds Religious Freedom Laws ‘Unthinkable’," The Blaze, 2015-APR-01, at:
  12. Fred Lucas, "Obama: I’m Concerned by ‘Less Than Loving’ Comments From Christians," The Blaze, 2015-APR-07, at:

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted: 2015-APR-01
Latest update: 2015-APR-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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