Indiana’s first legislative session begins this week. One issue on the docket is quite troubling.
Our statehouse is one of many nationwide considering a religious freedom bill, which would give businesses the right to refuse customers on religious grounds. Even supporters don’t seem to argue that it’s aimed mostly at LGBT people.
You might have seen some news stories about local bakeries forced to close their doors for refusing to serve gay customers. Well, this bill would protect Indiana businesses who do just that. It could also conceivably allow adoption agencies to refuse to let gay adults adopt children. Those are the known components of such a law, though more appeals to it will probably come should it pass.
You might also recall Arizona’s state legislature passed such a bill last year, and the reaction was swift and negative. Public figures and politicians in both parties denounced it. Celebrities and businesses threatened a boycott of the state. The NFL even talked about moving this year’s Super Bowl. Amidst the outcry, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill.
Indiana is far from the tourist destination that Arizona is, but passing this bill could be bad for business in our state, too. Indiana likes to tout itself as business-friendly to attract outside investment. If a boycott similar to Arizona’s takes shape, or if business owners are simply more socially-minded, people might think twice about coming to our state. So might prospective residents. Many Illinois small businesses and residents have found a new home here in Northwest Indiana. If this bill puts people off, they might look elsewhere.
Its effect on business is only the beginning, there are social issues as well.
Imagine if a law gave businesses the right to refuse customers of a certain skin color, specific ethnicity or a particular religion. Or if someone had the power to prevent those same groups from creating a family unit. In fact, you don’t even have to imagine it. Just read a history book about miscegenation and segregation laws. Today such laws are likely abhorrent to the majority of well-meaning people.
Now replace those persecuted groups with homosexual and transgender people. How is that any more acceptable? Or any different?