Indiana’s SB 101: Freedom to Discriminate

On March 26, 2015, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed SB101. Known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), its supporters argued that it was meant to protect religious freedom. However, it is part of nationwide push by conservative state legislators to legalize religious based discrimination — part of an effort to curb the rights of women, LGBTQI individuals, and others.

Indiana’s RFRA gives business owners the right to refuse service to any individual based on any vague set of religious principles:

“exercise of religion” includes any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief

Consequently, using religious justifications as a mask for bigotry, a rental property owner could refuse to rent to a married couple because of their sexual orientation.

Indiana’s RFRA states that governments cannot “substantially burden” an individual’s exercise of free religion. When applied, this means that a police officer could refuse to serve at an event due to religious objections — an instance of which happened in Oklahoma in 2011.

Moreover Section 2 of Indiana’s RFRA takes aim at local anti-discrimination legislation, making any city’s anti-discrimination legislation null and void if an individual claims religious exception:

A governmental entity, statute, ordinance, resolution, executive or administrative order, regulation, custom or usage may not be construed to be exempt from the application of this chapter unless a state statute expressly exempts the statute, ordinance, resolution, executive or administrative order, regulation, custom, or usage from the application of this chapter by citation to this chapter.

In a state university system, one wonders what the effects might be. Could a student refuse to take an examination if the topic contradicted his or her religious principles? Could a professor refuse to teach a student whose opinions offended his or her religious beliefs?

The vague wording of Indiana’s RFRA is troubling and will likely generate expensive and unnecessary lawsuits which test the limits of the legislation. It has already resulted in a call for boycotts of Indiana businesses and the withdrawal of investment.

Until this legislation is overturned, it will likely encourage discriminatory practices, fueled by the moral panic of fundamentalists, the reactionary sentiments of the far right wing, and the prejudice of bigots.

None of this is news. None of this was news when the Indiana General Assembly voted on the bill or when the governor signed it. Consequently, they are responsible for both its intended and its unintended consequences.

Voters should keep this in mind the next time they head to the polls. Below is a map of the votes by the Indiana House. Yellow indicates those who voted for Indiana’s RFRA; blue indicates those who voted against it. Representatives who were absent are identified by the districts in white.

 

Final Vote for Indiana SB 101 (2015)

Yea Votes

Name Party District
Ed Soliday Republican 4
Dale DeVon Republican 5
Michael Aylesworth Republican 11
Bill Fine Republican 12
Sharon Negele Republican 13
Hal Slager Republican 15
Douglas Gutwein Republican 16
Tim Harman Republican 17
Julie Olthoff Republican 19
Tom Dermody Republican 20
Tim Wesco Republican 21
Curt Nisly Republican 22
Bill Friend Republican 23
Donna Schaibley Republican 24
Don Lehe Republican 25
Randy Truitt Republican 26
Jeff Thompson Republican 28
Kathy Krieg Richardson Republican 29
Mike Karickoff Republican 30
Kevin Mahan Republican 31
Tony Cook Republican 32
Heath VanNatter Republican 38
Jerry Torr Republican 39
Greg Steuerwald Republican 40
Tim Brown Republican 41
Alan Morrison Republican 42
Jim Baird Republican 44
Bruce Borders Republican 45
Bob Heaton Republican 46
John Price Republican 47
Douglas Miller Republican 48
Wes Culver Republican 49
Dan Leonard Republican 50
Denny Zent Republican 51
Ben Smaltz Republican 52
Bob Cherry Republican 53
Cindy Ziemke Republican 55
Dick Hamm Republican 56
Woody Burton Republican 58
Milo Smith Republican 59
Peggy Mayfield Republican 60
Matt Ubelhor Republican 62
Mike Braun Republican 63
Thomas Washburne Republican 64
Eric Koch Republican 65
Randy Frye Republican 67
Jud McMillin Republican 68
Jim Lucas Republican 69
Rhonda Rhoads Republican 70
Steve Davisson Republican 73
Lloyd Arnold Republican 74
Ron Bacon Republican 75
Wendy McNamara Republican 76
Holli Sullivan Republican 78
Martin Carbaugh Republican 81
David Ober Republican 82
Christopher Judy Republican 83
Bob Morris Republican 84
Casey Cox Republican 85
Brian Bosma Republican 88
Mike Speedy Republican 90
Robert Behning Republican 91
Dave Frizzell Republican 93

 

Nay Votes

Name Party District
Linda Lawson Democrat 1
Charlie Brown Democrat 3
B. Patrick Bauer Democrat 6
David Niezgodski Democrat 7
Scott Pelath Democrat 9
Charles Moseley Democrat 10
Vernon Smith Democrat 14
Sheila Klinker Democrat 27
Greg Beumer Democrat 33
Sue Errington Democrat 34
Melanie Wright Democrat 35
Terri Jo Austin Democrat 36
Clyde Kersey Democrat 43
Thomas Saunders Republican 54
Sean Eberhart Republican 57
Matt Peirce Democrat 61
Terry Goodin Democrat 66
Steven Stemler Democrat 71
Edward Clere Republican 72
Gail Riecken Democrat 77
Philip GiaQuinta Democrat 80
Edward DeLaney Democrat 86
Christina Hale Democrat 87
Cindy Kirchhofer Republican 89
Karlee Macer Democrat 92
Cherrish Pryor Democrat 94
John Bartlett Democrat 95
Justin Moed Democrat 97
Robin Shackleford Democrat 98
Vanessa Summers Democrat 99
Dan Forestal Democrat 100

 

Absent

Name Party District
Earl Harris Democrat 2
Ryan Dvorak Democrat 8
David Wolkins Republican 18
Todd Huston Republican 37
Matthew Lehman Republican 79
Gregory Porter Democrat 96
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