Being called an “asshole” by Miley Cyrus didn’t prevent Indiana Governor Mike Pence from signing into law a controversial “Religious Liberty” bill that will allow the state’s business owners to deny service to the LGBT community. While Senate Bill 101 claims that it protects Indiana citizens so that the state government “may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion,” it also essentially opens the door for discrimination against gays and lesbians on religious grounds.
“This bill is not about discrimination and if I thought it legalized discrimination, I would have vetoed it,” Pence said in defending the new law (via the Indianapolis Star). “If you read the bill instead of reading the papers, you would see that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is now law in Indiana, is simply about giving the courts guidance and establishing the same standards that have existed at the federal level for more than 20 years. I understand the concerns that have been raised by some, because frankly, some in the media have tried to make this about one issue or another.”
While, on the surface, Pence is championing a bill that he says protects “religious freedom,” a closer look at who surrounded the governor while he signed the bill into law spotlight what the fine print is concealing. Eric Miller, the head of Advance America, a socially conservative lobbying group in the Hoosier State, stood directly beside Pence. On Miller’s website, he brags that the new law makes it so Christian bakers, florists and photographers won’t have to participate in “homosexual marriage,” and Christian businesses won’t be punished for “refusing to allow a man to use the women’s restroom,” referring to transgender people, CNN reports.
Critics of SB 101 call the bill a consolation prize after the same advocacy groups failed to outlaw same-sex marriage in the state of Indiana (the ban on same-sex marriage in Indiana was ruled unconstitutional last September). According to Mediate, Cyrus was one of many celebrities who voiced their displeasure with the new law, calling out the governor to her 16 million followers on Instagram.
The NCAA also expressed their disapproval of SB 101. With the Final Four set to tip off at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium on April 4th, the collegiate sports body stated that had they known the Religious Freedom Restoration Act would be enforced, they likely would have scheduled the final games elsewhere.
“The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.” Emmert added the NCAA would “work diligently” to make sure their fans weren’t “impacted negatively by this bill,” and that the NCAA will “closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events.”
Indiana is the 20th state to pass a similar religious freedom measure into law.