Saturday, March 28, 2015

indiana and the homophobic baker protection act

i know i quit blogging about indiana politics years ago (and have no intention to resume), but how can i stay away when the whole country is talking about us?

as everyone already knows, the state legislature passed SB 101, the so-called "religious freedom restoration act", in a brazen attempt to protect our state's homophobic businesses from having to serve gay couples. many states are or were trying to do the same this year, but we were the first and for that we have earned the nation's scorn. as far as anyone is concerned, indiana is officially bigot central.

perhaps nobody is more angry about this than the state's republican bloggers. but they're not angry at the (overwhelmingly republican) legislature for passing the bill, or at our governor (also republican). no, they're mad at liberals, who they insist are mischaracterizing the bill as being bigoted when it's really about freedom and patriotism and puppy dogs. gary welsh is so worked up about this that he concludes his latest post thusly:
It's no wonder we now live in a country where an element of the government can assassinate a president, civil rights leaders and other world leaders with impunity and carry out false flag events and propaganda campaigns against its own people and have the media castigate the discerning citizens among us as crackpot conspiracy theorists. Creating false realities is now the modus operandi.
governor pence and legislators who voted for the bill have a similar message (except for the assassinations and false flag propaganda part). "read the bill!" the governor begs. this ain't ragu and that ain't in there. likewise, on his tweetle, bill-sponsor scott schneider has been retwittling comments like this:
so where did all we evil, duplicitous liberals get the idea that this bill was intended to legalize discrimination against gays? maybe we got the idea from scott schneider!
On the other side, conservative groups with deep ties to many Indiana churches are lobbying hard. One such group, Advance America, is making a fact sheet available to churches.

"SB 568 will help protect individuals, Christian businesses and churches from those supporting homosexual marriages," it says. "Christian bakers, florists and photographers should not be punished for refusing to participate in a homosexual marriage!"

When asked if the pending legislation would afford such protections, Schneider said it would.
(emphasis mine. SB 568 was a different version of the bill that was dropped in favor of SB 101. schneider was the author of SB 568, so he presumably had a good idea what his bill was intended to do.)

and what about advance america? they've been talking about this since at least january:
Senate Bill 568 is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Senator Scott Schneider is the author of SB 568. Co-authors include the following Senators: Dennis Kruse, Brent Steele, Carlin Yoder, Jim Buck, Amanda Banks, Liz Brown, Jim Smith, Jim Tomes and Greg Walker.
SB 568 will help protect religious freedom in Indiana by providing protection for individuals with sincerely held religious beliefs, along with Christian businesses and churches.
SB 568 will help protect individuals, Christian businesses and churches from those supporting homosexual marriages and those supporting government recognition and approval of gender identity (male cross-dressers).
Here are just 3 examples:
  • Christian bakers, florists and photographers should not be punished for refusing to participate in a homosexual marriage!
  • A Christian business should not be punished for refusing to allow a man to use the women’s restroom!
  • A church should not be punished because they refuse to let the church be used for a homosexual wedding!
okay, but who are advance america anyway? they're a lobbying organization headed by a man named eric miller. this eric miller:

so sorry, anyone who tries to tell you that this is all some smear campaign thought up by democrat operatives is being disingenuous. we know for a fact that this is about discrimination because the bill's supporters and sponsors told us so... until word got out, that is. now most of them have suddenly gone silent. (a few of them are still brave enough to write op-eds whining about the gay mafia or call in to radio shows to argue in favor of discrimination, though.)

so maybe law professor david conkle is right that the bill doesn't really legalize discrimination and that any attempts to argue such in court would eventually lose on appeal. (personally i don't trust the supreme court to rule correctly on anything anymore.) but by ignoring the political context, these sorts of legal analysis miss the point. even if the RFRA doesn't actually legalize discrimination, it was supposed to.