Written by Andrea Martin. Media by Garrett Streeter[divide]
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has gained many critics who are labeling the act discriminatory as the wording in it seemingly allows businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians. Before Governor Mike Pence signed the act into law, he asked legislators to clarify the details of the act with a final statement of no “provider…may deny service to anyone on basis of sexual orientation, race, religion, or disability.” This act is the first time that Indiana has sought to protect those within the LGBT community.
Governor Pence commented on the misunderstanding of the bill, saying, “Over the past week this law has become a subject of great misunderstanding and controversy across our state and nation. However we got here, we are where we are, and it is important that our state take action to address the concerns that have been raised and move forward.”
The act first came to light after business owners strove for more protection, especially in regards to religious freedom and preferences. One of the biggest situations highlighting this has come from Indiana pizzeria that stated it would not cater to same-sex marriages because such an act would conflict with their faith.
“We service anyone. I don’t care who it is. I don’t care if they’re covered with tattoos, I don’t care if they got rings in their ears. I don’t care if they’re gay. The only thing I said was I cannot condone gay marriage,” said Kevin O’Connor, the owner of Walkerton pizzeria in Indiana. O’Connor’s daughter, Crystal, had made an outright comment about catering to same-sex marriages, and had unintentionally started the backlash that is now being received by the same business. To her defense, her father stated the pizzeria has never catered a wedding to begin with.
The LGBT community has also seen its hand of support from other businesses, as well as the NCAA, whose headquarters are in Indianapolis. The collegiate sports organization questioned the act enough to the point where it was reconsidering to host future events in different states. But after the clarification, NCAA President Mark Emmert praised the additional language, and approved for it to be signed into law.
The small changes to Religious Freedom Restoration Act, however, leave a bigger stage for anti-discriminatory activists, and those asking for more religious protections. The damage has already been done within the state of Indiana, and has now pinned other states to carefully watch what they want when it comes to religious beliefs and discriminatory actions.