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Welcome to Indiana, Where “Religious Freedom” Does Not Equal Discrimination

— March 30, 2015

religious-freedomIndiana Governor Mike Pence (R) recently signed into law the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act allowing businesses to hide behind their religious beliefs if they make the misguided decision to not serve customers on the basis of sexual orientation. The law seeks to protect people by not forcing them to do things that would violate their religious beliefs.

Because baking a cake for my big gay wedding is so making Jesus cry.

Pence assures the law’s detractors that it in no way promotes discrimination. Excuse me? Take a look at the image above and tell me that segregation laws didn’t promote discrimination, Gov. Pence. Oh, wait. George Stephanopoulos asked you that question numerous times on national television and you wouldn’t answer it.

Essentially, “the law asserts that the government can’t ‘substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion’ and that individuals who feel like their religious beliefs have been or could be ‘substantially burdened’ can lean on this law to fend off lawsuits.” Again, me asking you to bake a cake will surely send you to Hell.

This isn’t the first such law to be passed. However, it is the first one to come about due to a huge outcry from right-wing lobbyists (some of whom attended the bill’s private signing) against recently legalized gay marriage. This “non-discriminatory” law has its roots in the same backward thinking that gave us “whites only” diners and “blacks only” drinking fountains.

It is shameful that, in 2015, our thinking has reverted to this type of exclusionary policy. Even worse is the fact that this legislative throwback is wrapped up nicely as protection for those who practice a religion supposedly based on love. This law has ramifications not just for the gay community but also for all whose differences somehow offend someone’s personal definition of religious duty.

Are you a Muslim? Don’t be surprised if you get turned away at the door for not worshipping the “right” god. Jewish? Same thing. And for Allah’s sake, butch it up a bit if you want a haircut or a cup of coffee! Don’t even get me started on interracial couples. Surely, someone is going to say Jesus didn’t like them either.

Some in Indiana are celebrating because they’re no longer forced to deal with Adam & Steve shopping for flowers for their wedding or expecting – gasp! – to spend big money at a restaurant for date night. However, others are not quite so happy. Indianapolis’ Republican mayor Greg Ballard is worried about the negative economic impact this ludicrous law will have on his city.

He’s right to be worried, too. Famous gamer convention GenCon has threatened to pull out of Indy to the tune of $50M in added revenue. The Disciples of Christ Church is also threatening to move its convention elsewhere. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, took to Twitter condemning the restrictive legislation and tech giant Salesforce chief, Mark Benioff, is not only halting company expansion in the state, he’s funding relocation for any Salesforce employees who wish to leave Indiana.

The vanishing buck doesn’t stop there. Benioff has also halted all employee travel to Indiana and San Francisco and Seattle mayors have banned all spending of public money on travel. San Francisco’s ban allows on exception: travel that is essential to the public health and safety. The NCAA, headquarted in Indy, and hosting the Final Four there, is expressing concerns over how their staff – and openly gay players – will be treated. It’s considering moving such events elsewhere in the future, as are the NBA, WNBA and NFL. The potential revenue loss is unfathomable. So, too, is the loss of reputation.

Tourism dollars are sure to disappear. Indiana Senator Dennis Kruse (R), the force behind the annual car auction in Auburn, IN, was one of the bill’s signers. As with the conventions, this event draws tens of thousands of car buffs to Indianapolis, many of whom are gay.

Never fear, Governor Pence! All of those $1,000 wedding cakes will surely shore up your state’s economy. That and opening a statewide theme park: 1950s Land.

I here, I’m queer, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to Indiana anytime soon.   Sources: Washington Post CNN NCAA Concerns Auburn Auction

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