Revulsion and Revolt: Backlash Against Indiana's Pro-Discrimination Law Grows
At a mid-morning press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence said it would now be the right thing to do to “fix” the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act—which he signed into law just last week—after a national backlash against the measure led justice groups, business leaders, and a diverse coalition of in-state and out-of-state of voices to call for a boycott of the state because the law was seen as sanctioning anti-gay and potentially other forms of discrimination.
Though he continued to defend the spirit of the legislation, Pence admitted that he was caught off-guard by the widespread condemnation of the law and blasted both journalists and civil liberties advocates for painting Indiana as a place where intolerant bigotry exists. “This law does not give anyone the right to discriminate,” Pence said at the news conference. “But I can appreciate that that has become the perception.”
Pence called on the state’s General Assembly to send him new language to clarify the law this week. As many national news outlets covered the morning press event live, many on social media (including those additionally worried about the governor’s peculiar breathing patterns) took note of Pence’s continued misdirection when it came to addressing concerns of the law’s strongest critics.
And Jeb Lund pointed out in a column at the Guardian on Tuesday morning, what many critics of the law are now equally angered about is the fact that Pence, as well as other backers of the law, refuse to admit that the intent of the legislation was clearly to enable discriminatory practices. As Lund put it:
If you want to see the band Wilco play this Spring, you won’t be doing it in Indiana.
Joining other artists, businesses, sports fans, municipal and state governments, and untold numbers of individuals, the popular rock band’s decision to cancel an upcoming concert in the state was an explicit move to support the #BoycottIndiana movement which has sprung up in response to a new pro-discrimination law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence last week. Wilco’s decision comes as equality and civil liberties advocates continue to mobilize against Indiana’s recently passed ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA),’ and is now part of a wider revolt against the controversial law, and others like it, across the country.
“We’re canceling our 5/7 show in Indianapolis,” the band announced on Twitter Monday night. “‘Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ feels like thinly disguised legal discrimination.”
As the Republican-controlled legislature and regressive allies from across the country continue to defend the law, a large and diverse coalition has quickly taken shape to challenge it. While both Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz have voiced support for the Indiana law, dissenting politicians, faith leaders, local business owners, larger corporations, and student groups both inside Indiana and across the country are declaring there is simply no room for a law that makes it easier to discriminate—particularly against members of the gay, lesbian, and transgender community.
Masked as a move to protect religious freedom, critics charge the new law is a cynical response to the legalization of same-sex marriage in states across the U.S. and is nothing less than an attempt to insulate those who would cite religious objections in order to refuse to do business with or provide otherwise public services to LGBTQ people.
The law signed by Gov. Pence—passed as SB 101—has become a flashpoint against similar pieces of legislation that are already law or are currently making their way through other state legislatures. Though Pence has tried to argue that the bill is not anti-gay and other GOP lawmakers in the state expressed “shock” over the backlash, the Huffington Post‘s Amanda Terkel reports on why this line of defense is “hard to believe.” Terkel highlights the efforts of the gay rights group GLAAD, who made it clear they believe the Republicans knew exactly what they were doing by passing SB 101 and pointed to this photo which shows who was present at the closed-door signing of the bill last week:
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