In the face of increased uproar and planned boycotts of the state of Indiana following the passage of the state’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Indianapolis Star dedicated its front page Tuesday to a demand that Indiana governor Mike Pence “fix this now.” In the newspaper’s public plea, they write that the discriminatory nature of the RFRA can easily be repaired by passing new legislature expanding the rights of the LGBT community so that the two factions can “co-exist.”
“We are at a critical moment in Indiana’s history. And much is at stake. Our image. Our reputation as a state that embraces people of diverse backgrounds and makes them feel welcome,” the paper wrote. “And our efforts over many years to retool our economy, to attract talented workers and thriving businesses, and to improve the quality of life for millions of Hoosiers.
“All of this is at risk because of a new law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that no matter its original intent already has done enormous harm to our state and potentially our economic future. The consequences will only get worse if our state leaders delay in fixing the deep mess created. Half steps will not be enough. Half steps will not undo the damage.”
Instead of calling upon a repeal of the RFRA — something the GOP-dominated state senate and Pence have repeatedly stated they won’t do — the Indy Star instead recommended enacting “a state law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” The newspaper also branded the hashtag “#WeAreIndiana” to “spread the message of who we are and what we want the world to know: Indiana embraces everyone and we do not discriminate.”
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Tuesday, Pence defended the bill, writing that 19 other states have already passed similar bills and that Barack Obama championed Illinois’ version of the RFRA when the future president was a state senator there. “I want to make clear to Hoosiers and every American that despite what critics and many in the national media have asserted, the law is not a ‘license to discriminate,’ either in Indiana or elsewhere,” Pence writes.
“I abhor discrimination. I believe in the Golden Rule that you should ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore,” Pence continues. “As governor of Indiana, if I were presented a bill that legalized discrimination against any person or group, I would veto it. Indiana’s new law contains no reference to sexual orientation.”
While Pence continues to defend the bill against the “false narratives and misrepresentations of the RFRA,” that doesn’t change the fact that he signed the bill into law with Advance America lobbyist Eric Miller. On Miller’s own site, the conservative lobbyist bragged that the passage of the RFRA would make it so Christian bakers, florists and photographers won’t have to participate in a “homosexual marriage,” and that Christian businesses won’t be punished for “refusing to allow a man to use the women’s restroom,” referring to transgender people.
Since Indiana passed the RFRA, everyone from Apple CEO Tim Cook to Wilco, who cancelled a May 7th gig in the state, have condemned the discriminatory new law. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Orsay issued a statement saying, “The Colts have always embraced inclusiveness, tolerance, and a diverse fan base. We welcome ALL fans to Colts Nation. ONE FAMILY!” The Indiana Pacers, three of the four colleges (Michigan State, Duke and Wisconsin) gearing up to play at the NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis, the NBA and NFL all delivered similar statements echoing “inclusiveness” and zero tolerance towards discrimination.