A new Indiana law, signed by Gov Mike Pence last week, will allow business owners who don’t support homosexuality because of religious beliefs to refuse to serve a customer whose sexual orientation significantly burdens their free exercise of those beliefs, CNN reports.
A joke posted on Facebook
The intention of the law was not to discriminate, Mr Pence contends, but rather to reinforce a business owner’s legal right to defend his or her religious beliefs and practices, even if that means not doing business with someone whose beliefs he or she doesn’t agree with. But the language is somewhat vague and may lead to unintended consequences of discrimination against gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals, many of whom come to Indiana frequently for conferences, festivals, and even national school events.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament, for example, will play its Final Four games in Indianapolis in about a week, and officials at the NCAA expressed concern about the impact this new law will have on future business conducted by the association.
“We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees,” CNN quoted NCAA President Mark Emmert as saying in a statement.
Under Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, business owners who object to homosexuality on religious grounds can turn away gay, lesbian, and transgender customers. Furthermore, Indiana has no law protecting people from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Laws like this are on the books in many states, but Indiana’s law is very broad in comparison with similar laws in other states. Still, it may not be so bad.
Some legal experts think the law will protect, say, a florist who refuses to provide flowers for a same-sex marriage, but it’s unlikely to be powerful enough to defend a restaurant owner who refuses to serve a gay couple who want to sit down for a bite to eat, according to a sidebar story on CNN. Serving someone a burger just doesn’t burden a business owner’s religious beliefs against homosexuality as significantly as providing flowers for a same-sex marriage ceremony would.
For Illinois marching bands, Indianapolis is prominent
Every November, more than 10,000 students in about 90 high school marching bands descend on Indianapolis, as do their families, friends, teachers, and other fans, for the Bands of America Grand National Championships.
I have to wonder if Indianapolis-area businesses would refuse to serve or otherwise discriminate against marching band students they believe to be gay.
Probably not, because that would be bad for business, and it’s unlikely that serving food at a restaurant, say, would place a “significant burden” on the religious beliefs of restaurant owners. But some of them might now feel they have a right to refuse service, and that could lead to discrimination against students and their families.
Indiana courts might not support a restaurant owner who uses this law to deny food to a gay customer, but by the time any visiting parent brings a discrimination suit against a Subway owner in Indianapolis, the damage will have already been done and a band student will have been denied a meal of his or her choice.
Bands of America is a program run by Music for All, which, like the NCAA, is based in Indianapolis. Voxitatis contacted Music for All officials for this story on March 27 to ask if they might consider pulling the Grand National Championships out of Indianapolis.
Deb Laferty Asbill, MFA’s vice president of marketing and communications, said the organization “would not like to make any comment at this time.”
From humble beginnings at a Wisconsin college in the mid-1970s, the organization this fall will celebrate 40 years of positively life-changing experiences through music for hundreds of thousands of students across the country.
What a great time to make a statement about the treatment of those students!