Lambda Legal to Gov. Pence: If You Mean It, Stop the Discrimination
(Indianapolis, IN, March 29, 2015) – As the nation condemns Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for his blatantly misleading defense on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos this morning of SB 101, the new Indiana law designed to allow businesses, organizations and individuals to discriminate against anyone in Indiana on religious grounds, there are two easy steps Gov. Pence and Indiana lawmakers can take to make this right if they are sincere that they are not inviting discrimination. Jennifer Pizer, National Director of Lambda Legal’s Law and Policy Project, issued the following statement:
Governor Pence, yet again, claims he opposes discrimination, while continuing to defend this discriminatory law and deceiving the public about what it does. If he and Indiana’s elected leadership want to be taken seriously and to fix public perception of their state, they can and must take two simple steps:
- Pass a law to include gay and trangender people within Indiana’s existing, statewide nondiscrimination rules.
- Add this language to the new religión law: ‘This chapter does not establish or eliminate a defense to a claim under any federal, state or local law protecting civil rights or preventing discrimination.’
Govenor Pence has been deceiving Hoosiers and the nation. He said that SB101 isn’t intended to allow discrimination against LGBT people, but amendments to ensure that would be true were repeatedly rejected during the legislative process. If he honestly means what he continues to say, then he and the legislature immediately must work together to make it so.
Fixing this is neither confusing nor difficult, but it is urgent. Without immediatate legislative action to fix this discriminatory reality for gay and transgender Hoosiers, Governor Pence’s platitudes today will remain as misleading as his past deceptions about the new law.
To be clear:
Gov. Pence myth: SB 101 is just like an Illinois law that then-State Senator Obama voted to support.
Truth: Gov. Pence fails to point out that Illinois has a robust, statewide Human Rights Act that specifically protects LGBT people just as it protects others in Illinois. Indiana does not. This matters because those seeking to discriminate in Indiana may claim that the lack of a statewide law barring sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination means that there is no compelling state interest even to enforce local ordinances providing such protections.
Gov. Pence myth: This law only reinforces established law in Indiana.
Truth: The language in SB 101 is so broadly written that someone can sue even without their religious beliefs having actually been burdened simply by claiming that is “likely” to happen.
Gov. Pence myth: SB101 is just like the federal law that President Clinton signed 20 years ago.
Truth: SB 101 is substantially broader than the federal law. It extends religious rights to all businesses, no matter how large and completely secular they are. In addition, the federal RFRA can only be invoked against government action. SB 101 goes much further, inviting discrimination by allowing religious beliefs to be raised as a defense in lawsuits and administrative proceedings brought by workers, tenants and customers who have suffered discrimination in a business transaction based on someone else’s religious beliefs.
Tell Gov. Pence to fix the law and stop anti-LGBT discrimination in Indiana: Sign our petition today!
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Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.