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Indiana's Gov. Pence signs religious exemptions bill, groups respond
From press releases
2015-03-26

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[UPDATED with statements issued on March 27 and 28, 2015]

Lambda Legal slams Indiana Gov. Pence's rush to sign discriminatory religious exemptions bill

(Indianapolis, IN, March 26, 2015) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence today signed SB101, the deeply flawed bill designed to allow private businesses, individuals and organizations to discriminate against anyone in Indiana on religious grounds. Jennifer Pizer, National Director of Lambda Legal's Law and Policy Project, issued the following statement condemning Governor Pence's rush to sign this discriminatory bill:

"SB101 will facilitate discrimination in many areas of life for Indiana families. Even more troubling is Governor Pence's desperate rush to sign this badly designed bill in the face of fast-growing public and business opposition. Its repercussions are already being felt as national organizations from The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to the enormous Gen Con gaming convention are reevaluating their plans to hold their conventions in Indiana.

"One wonders why Governor Pence is in such a hurry. His attempt to end discussion this way won't succeed, and he will bear main responsibility for the negative financial impacts on Indiana likely to unfold over the next couple of years. That's what happened to Colorado a bit more than a decade ago, when those seeking freedom to discriminate against gay and transgender people won a majority vote and cost the state dearly. With so many cities and states competing for conventions and major sports events, why would planners pick Indiana, a place where elected officials have chosen to treat businesses like churches, and to reject every amendment to protect the most basic of civil rights?

"At last week's Indiana House Judiciary Committee hearing, Hoosiers heard the heart-wrenching testimony of Amy Sandler, who with her late wife Niki Quasney battled successfully for recognition of their marriage. Amy spoke courageously and eloquently about her and Niki's fight for respect, and illustrated the long-term meaning and deeply personal impact of SB101. With Governor Pence's hasty signature on this bill, he has made a callous trade of short-term politics for the safety and security of Amy, her children and countless Indiana families."

ACLU comment on Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signing discriminatory "Religious Freedom" Bill into law

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mike Pence today signed a bill into law that would allow anyone to use their religious beliefs to claim that they have a right to refuse to follow anti-discrimination protections and other laws.

SB 101 is a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bill modeled off Arizona's SB 1062 that Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed last year following strong opposition from the local and national business communities. In response to Gov. Pence's public support of the bill, widespread discontent was voiced by business and faith communities: the GenCon convention, Indianapolis Colts player Pat McAfee, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the first openly gay NBA player, Jason Collins.

"The timing of this legislation is important to understanding its intent: The bill was introduced as a backlash reaction to achieving marriage equality for same-sex couples in Indiana," said Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana. "We are deeply disappointed that the governor and state lawmakers have been tone-deaf to the cries of legions of Hoosiers — including businesses, convention leaders, faith communities, and more than 10,000 people who signed petitions against the bill — who say they don't want this harmful legislation to impair the reputation of our state and harm our ability to attract the best and brightest to Indiana."

The ACLU and other groups took a stand against the bill by petitioning Gov. Pence to veto. It is the first state to pass a RFRA this legislative session and is closely trailed by bills in Georgia and Arkansas that would have similar consequences.

"While we are disappointed by the outcome in Indiana, we remain heartened by the thousands of Americans across the country who, regardless of their faith or political persuasion, spoke out against this misguided legislation," said Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "Unfortunately, the fight continues, with states like Arkansas and Georgia dangerously close to passing similar legislation. We hope leaders in those states are paying attention to the public outcry in their states and seeing the economic backlash in Indiana and elsewhere. Religious freedom is a core American value, one that the ACLU has been defending since its founding. However, we will continue to oppose any attempts to use religion to discriminate."

The Indiana RFRA is one of 24 introduced in 15 states this year that could allow someone to use their religious beliefs to discriminate. Numerous other bills specifically single out the LGBT community for unequal treatment.

State-by-state bill tracking information is available on the ACLU website here:

https://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/anti-lgbt-religious-refusals-legislation-across-country.

DNC Vice Chair Statement on Governor Mike Pence Signing SB 101

Washington, DC — In response to Indiana Governor Mike Pence signing SB 101, a bill that could allow Indiana businesses to deny services to customers based on sexual orientation, DNC Vice Chair, President of the Association of State Democratic Chairs, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair, and Member of the DNC's LGBT Caucus Ray Buckley released the following statement:

"In the face of opposition from Indiana's LGBT community, Indiana's business community, and the majority of Americans who believe a business should not be able to refuse services to individuals because they are gay or lesbian, Governor Mike Pence and the Republican Party decided to move forward with a damaging bill that turns back the clock on the progress we have made for LGBT equality.

"By signing this blatantly discriminatory bill that will only drive business out of his state, Pence reminds every Hoosier and every American that the Republican Party is more focused on its ideological social agenda than it is on expanding opportunity for the middle class and growing our economy.

"And the fact is, Republican presidential hopeful Mike Pence is far from alone on this issue. Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio have all voiced support for similar legislation and policies that would give businesses the right to refuse services to LGBT people. Just imagine if these politicians had the chance to bring this dangerous and divisive agenda to the White House.

"So while Republicans applaud Mike Pence for allowing Indiana businesses to discriminate against the LBGT community, Democrats will continue to stand with our community and fight for a more inclusive society in Indiana and across the country."

GetEQUAL issues travel warning for those planning travel to the State of Indiana

Today, GetEQUAL — a national grassroots social justice organization working toward the full equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals — issued a "travel warning" to all those planning travel to the state of Indiana.

This travel warning (text below) comes one day after the Governor of Indiana signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, which permits discrimination on the basis of an individual's "strongly-held religious beliefs." This bill is intended to target LGBTQ residents of the state, but could potentially also lead to unsafe situations for a wide range of individuals, including women, religious minorities, people of color, or anyone else who an individual might want to target for discrimination.

Given that the Final Four games of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament are being held in Indianapolis this year (April 4-6), it is vitally important that all travelers to the state understand the immediate consequences of this new law. The president of the NCAA recently commented that the organization is rushing to ensure that all travelers to Indianapolis take precautions, and is examining the implications of this law for the organization's employees, as the NCAA is headquartered in Indianapolis. (Link to comments here: http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/25/politics/mike-pence-religious-freedom-bill-gay-rights/.)

Indiana is the first state this year to pass such a dangerous and restrictive bill, though many other states have passed such bills in past years. Similar bills are also currently pending in many other state legislatures. Georgia is considering a similar bill, which is currently tabled in committee but which could be brought back up at any moment, and Arkansas is also on the precipice of passing such a bill.

"Indiana has now gone down in history as not only a foothold of the Ku Klux Klan, but as the home of anti-LGBTQ and anti-woman legal attacks," said Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL. "I've seen many once-proud Hoosiers taking to social media to announce their plans to move out of state — but my concern is for those who don't have the means to move, or who are caring for family members in the state. Governor Pence not only made a political mistake for his own career in sealing his reputation as a bigot, but he has also put every resident of the state in danger with this radical new law."

"I was born and raised in Indiana, and was fortunate to be able to move out of state after experiencing oppressive discrimination in my youth — but even when I was trying to leave the state, I wouldn't have dreamed that Indiana would make this radical of a move to put its residents in danger," said Tanya Domi, chair of GetEQUAL's board. "My heart is heavy for my friends who are now weighing whether they will be able to remain in Indiana with their families, or whether they must flee simply to ensure that they can go to the store, go to the doctor, or raise their kids without fear."

In response to the signing of this bill into law, GetEQUAL has issued the following travel warning for all travelers to Indiana. This alert extends to families, tourists, Final Four attendees, student-athletes, coaches, reporters and broadcasters, convention-goers, business travelers, and all others who might consider travel to the state.

TRAVEL WARNING — STATE OF INDIANA

EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY

GetEQUAL is alerting those traveling to the State of Indiana of a new law that legalizes discrimination or refusal of service to anyone, based on an individual's religious belief. The State of Indiana has enacted legislation that would allow businesses and public servants to legally discriminate against anyone on the basis of religious belief, and there are no public accommodations protections at the state level on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Anyone considering travel to the State of Indiana must consider that they may be refused service in public spaces, asked to leave businesses, or even be denied medical care if their identity could be seen as objectionable under any religious tenets.

No part of Indiana should be considered safe for travelers, including LGBTQ people, women, children, religious minorities, or people of color. The potential for hostility extends across the state. Do not assume that your non-resident status will protect you from Indiana's strict religious doctrine, enforced by minority rule.

GetEQUAL advises against non-essential travel for everyone, since this new law could impact not only LGBTQ individuals, but also unmarried women, religious minorities, anyone with a medical condition, interracial couples, people of color, and more. Several companies based in the state have already ended non-essential travel to the state for employees. Those who are required to travel to Indiana are encouraged to take the following precautions:

- Avoid traveling alone in the state

- Only book travel at hotels which have policies explicitly prohibiting discrimination

- Carry any legal or medical documents with you that might be needed to ensure proper care

- Be aware of your surroundings and adopt other appropriate safety measures to protect yourself while traveling

GetEQUAL will continue to monitor this situation and update travelers as needed, both on the situation in Indiana and the state of travel in other states considering the passage of similar measures.

From Pride At Work: Indiana's religious freedom law is an affront to the values of organized labor

WASHINGTON, DC - Yesterday, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signed that state's version of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bill, which would allow businesses, governments, and even first responders to discriminate against LGBT people and other minority groups on religious grounds. Versions of these laws are being pushed by legislators in many states in the wake of recent progress for LGBT marriage equality. Pride at Work opposes these bills and Executive Director Jerame Davis, an Indiana native, reacted strongly to the enactment of this law in Indiana:

"Up is not down, left is not right, and we have not always been at war with Eastasia," said Davis. "Orwellian doublespeak will not hide the true nature of these laws intended to restrict the freedom of LGBT people while masquerading as 'religious tolerance.' As a born and raised Hoosier, I'm appalled that a state known for its hospitality and easy-going demeanor would even consider such a divisive and unwelcoming law.

"It is shocking to me that legislators have been quick to pass these laws without thinking about the potential consequences. The Indiana law, which goes much further than the federal RFRA, isn't only about preventing a business from being forced to sell wedding cakes to gay people. A broad interpretation of the language could lead to some incredibly disastrous forms of discrimination that wouldn't necessarily be confined to LGBT people.

"America's labor movement has worked for decades to put an end to the types of discrimination this bill seeks to not only allow, but promote as a virtue. Fighting this sort of blind bigotry, which has plagued so many marginalized groups in our country's history, is at the core of union values and stands as a reminder that our work is not done."

See earlier coverage at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Indiana-passes-nations-most-anti-LGBTQ-law-/50910.html .


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