Ignoring Opposition by Corporations, Indiana Set to Pass Religious Discrimination Bill

by Stephen Peters

Bringing a wave of lawsuits to the state, the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” will encourage people to pick and choose which laws to follow

WASHINGTON – In spite of corporations’ and civil rights advocates’ outcry of opposition, the Indiana House of Representatives is expected to pass a sweeping bill early next week allowing individuals to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people and other minorities. Astonishingly, the Governor is expected to sign the bill into law.

“This ill-conceived legislation will more than likely bring a wave of lawsuits to Indiana,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow. “Yet the Indiana General Assembly and the Governor are ignoring broad opposition to this bill, including from businesses who know that it will send a troubling message about the inclusiveness of Indiana and have unacceptable implications for their employees. All Hoosiers deserve to be treated fairly, equally, and should have to play by the same set of rules as everyone else.”

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce and local employers including Alcoa, Cummins, Eli Lilly & Co., and Salesforce have spoken out against the bill, warning that it is bad for business. The Indiana bill is a part of an onslaught of anti-LGBT bills being introduced around the country targeting LGBT people. Similar legislation has been opposed in other states by major companies including Wal-Mart and Apple out of concern that they undermine existing civil rights law and deeply harm the business climate of states in which they are passed.

Many of these bills could critically undermine the enforcement of state non-discrimination protections, and passing them will do serious harm to the business climate of these states—exposing the state to a wave of lawsuits, putting jobs at risk, and making major corporations think twice about investing in states that previously had pro-business reputations.

If the overly vague bill in Indiana is signed into law, public businesses from pharmacists to funeral homes to clothing stores, and everything in between, could potentially undermine state and local laws that protect people of faith, LGBT people, divorcees, women and interracial couples, among others. No one should be refused service simply because of a professed religious objection to who they are.

Americans overwhelmingly believe that businesses should not be able to deny services to someone because they’re gay or lesbian. According to a 2013 poll by Third Way and the Human Rights Campaign, 69 percent of Americans don’t think a business owner should be allowed to refuse to provide products or services to an individual because that person is gay or lesbian, compared to an incredibly small 15% that do. And when asked about small business owners in particular, a full 68% of Americans don’t think they should be able to refuse service to gays or lesbians, regardless of their religious beliefs. This supermajority included 55% of Republicans, 75% of Independents, 67% of people without college degrees, and 68% of Christians.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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