One Indiana city tries to undo the state’s LGBT image problem and fails

Mike_Pence

Gov. Mike Pence

Indiana’s having no luck digging itself out of the homophobic hole it dug for itself when the legislature passed the fist so-call Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect poor churches from discrimination by the big, bad gays.

After the law passed, the state lost a ton of business. Companies halted expansions in the state. Others cancelled travel to the state. Conventions were eighty-sixed and moved elsewhere.

Rather than fix the law or provide nondiscrimination protections, Gov. Mike Pence hired a PR firm.

Nothing has worked and the state is still suffering.

The mayor of one Indiana city — Elkhart —decided to do something about it, according to the Elkhart Truth. Mayor Dick Moore proposed a city LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance that would cover employment, housing and public accommodations.

Opponents rallied, using the insidious “men dressed as women will rape your girls in restrooms” argument. Moore and the city council were barraged (well, some council members claimed as many as 10 calls a day), so the proposal was withdrawn.

Pence isn’t backing down from his support of the state law that protects discrimination as long as someone screams religion. So maybe Indiana passed exactly the law it wanted and the state is proud to discriminate — even in a city whose mayor tried to do the right thing.

—  David Taffet

Florida House committee approves anti-LGBT adoption bill

Even as the Indiana Legislature begins consideration of an amendment to its recently approved Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would bar discrimination by private businesses based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity, Equality Florida is reporting that anti-gay legislation is making headway in the Sunshine State.

You’d think that the massive backlash over Indiana’s anti-gay RFRA that has sent lawmakers there scrambling into damage control mode and convinced Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to change his mind about signing a similar bill in his state might make lawmakers elsewhere think twice, too.

But not in Florida, apparently. They ain’t gonna be skeered off in Florida.

According to an Equality Florida press statement released this afternoon (Thursday, April 2), the Florida House Judiciary Committee has Screen shot 2015-04-02 at 4.13.50 PMpassed an adoption bill that would allow discrimination against prospective LGBT parents “and places childrebn seeking a permanent home at continued risk.”

“This is Indiana-style legalized discrimination, plain and simple,” Equality Florida Public Policy Specialist Carlos Guillermo Smith declared in the statement. “But it’s even worse because this promotes state-sanctioned and taxpayer-funded discrimination.”

Smith, saying that lawmakers know the bill is “as indefensible as it is unnecessary,” said the new measure would allow any private adoption agency — either secular or religious — to discriminate against prospective parents based on sexual orientation, gender identity, family status and religious or political beliefs.

“One of the cruelest measures embedded in the bill would allow agencies to refuse to place foster children with members of their extended families based on their marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion,” the Equality Florida statement says. “A loving, unmarried grandparent, for example, or a stable, welcoming relative of a different faith could be deemed unsuitable under the proposed law.”

Smith noted that Florida already has an Religious Freedom Restoration Act in place that allows faith-based organizations to factor in religious beliefs when offering adoption and other services. The new bill, he added, “strips prospective parents of legal recourse if they’ve been discriminated against, and prohibits the state from withholding taxpayer money from discriminatory agencies.”

Ellen Kahn, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Children, Youth and Families Program, also condemned in the new bill, saying it “flies in the face of our responsibility to find permanent families and safe, loving homes for every child.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: Amendment to Indiana RFRA would include gender identity and sexual orientation

IndianaRepublican legislators in Indiana have proposed changes to the state’s controversial new Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would bar discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, the Associated Press reports.

The amendment would also bar discrimination by private businesses based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or United States military service.

The changes come amidst increasing vocal opposition to the state’s new law, signed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence.

But not all groups are happy.

Eric Miller, CEO of Advance America, a group that backs the current bill, denounced the move in a statement.

“The Indiana General Assembly should not destroy in less than 36 hours the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that took over 65 days to go through the legislative process earlier this year,” Miller stated. “The proposed change to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not a ‘fix’ but a hammer to destroy religious freedom for Hoosiers around the state – and it was all done behind closed doors!”

Miller added if the amendment passed, it would discriminate against “Christian bakers, florists and photographers [who] would no longer have the benefit of Indiana law to help protect them from being forced by the government to participate in a homosexual wedding.”

Others opposed it for different reasons.

“This bill reduces the threat but is far less than this situation requires. It recognizes there are problems, but does not fix it as LGBT Hoosiers and others urgently need. Now that there’s broad public understanding that gay and transgender people in much of Indiana are terribly vulnerable to arbitrary discrimination by businesses, refusal of housing, and being fired just for being who they are — and even Gov. Pence has agreed that that is wrong — that unacceptable situation requires a full solution,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, national director of Lambda Legal’s Law and Policy Project, in a statement.

Pizer was joined by the Human Rights Campaign and more than 70 CEOs of technology companies in calling for changing, or outright scrapping, the bill.

“Though this legislation is certainly a step back from the cliff, this fight is not over until every person in Indiana is fully equal under the law. At the federal level and in all 50 states, the time has come in this country for comprehensive legal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people that cannot be undermined,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement.

“If anything can be learned from the battle for fairness and equality in Indiana, Arkansas, and other states, it’s that LGBT people deserve to be protected from unjust discrimination,” said Max Levchin, CEO of Affirm, and the organizer of the joint statement with other CEOs. “We are proud to stand on the side of liberty and justice and call on all legislatures to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in non-discrimination protections. This will ensure that no one faces discrimination while everyone preserves their right to live out their faith.”

—  James Russell

The Memories Pizza story: Doesn’t add up and isn’t the problem

MemoriesThe whole Memories Pizza “won’t cater a gay wedding story” just doesn’t add up.

First, as has been pointed out all over social media, no gay couple ever called out for pizza for their wedding. But that’s just pointing out the obvious.

We’re to believe a small-town Indiana pizza shop is suddenly the flashpoint for anti-Christian discrimination by the LGBT community and in one day they’re out of business?!

Sorry. Don’t believe it.

This became a story when a South Bend TV station told a reporter to travel about 30 minutes to the town of Walkerton and get reactions to the “religious freedom” bill that just passed. The owner of the pizza shop — or maybe she’s the owner’s daughter? — said she’s in favor of the law and then added that they wouldn’t cater a same-sex wedding.

A day later, the business was closed.

Sorry. There’s something wrong with this story.

First of all, media reporting the story should point out that the TV station had to travel half an hour from its studio to even find a business that supported the law. They must have looked locally and found nothing.

Memories Pizza hadn’t issued a press release or gone on social media to go out of its way to bash the LGBT community. The owner/owner’s daughter made an off-handed remark, while on camera, just repeating the nonsense she’d heard all over media before about all the bakers and photographers who have been “forced” to cater same-sex weddings.

Then the next day her business is closed.

So let’s assume as a result of her TV appearance, there was a sudden boycott of her business. In one day, she was forced to close. What would happen if it snowed in her Indiana town and she was forced to shut down for one day? Would she also be out of business?

More likely than not, her friends and neighbors who saw her on TV the day before stopped by just to say they saw her and while they were there they bought something. I’m sure business was just fine at Memories yesterday.

Maybe she closed because of phone threats?

Let me tell you something about phone threats. Doing an LGBT radio show, I’ve gotten death threats, bomb threats and just plain harassing calls. Lots of them. A few weeks ago, I was substituting on KNON’s Jewish Music Hour and I got an anti-semitic call. Wow. Hadn’t heard that kind of stupidity in awhile.

Here’s what you do when you get threatening phone calls. You take the call seriously and call the police.

I can assure you here in Dallas, threats like that are taken seriously. Very seriously. I’m sure in Walkerton, Ind., the police know their downtown businesses and take those kinds of threats personally as well as seriously.

If Memories Pizza really is out of business, the business was failing already. If she’s closed because she’s overwhelmed by the response, fine, take a vacation. Everyone’s entitled to one.

Here’s how I see this case. A small town business was put in front of city media, said something stupid and panicked. If anyone is calling and harassing her, stop it. Really. Stop it now.

Memories Pizza isn’t the problem. Gov. Mike Pence who wants to fix the law but is against LGBT protections is the problem.

—  David Taffet

Inside Indiana’s law from a gay couple

Jarrod and Casey

Casey Williams  |  Dallas Voice contributor

Usually I spend my weekends reviewing the next hot car, but this weekend I’ve spent much of it wavering between rage and tears. I spent many years living in Dallas, but currently reside in Indianapolis — and could never have predicted what would happen in my household as last week began. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that passed along party lines in the Indiana legislature and was signed by Governor Pence is pitting my family against longtime friends.

But, a little history. Last year, in anticipation of Indiana’s marriage ban being lifted, the same legislature attempted to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In Indiana, such amendments must be passed in two successive legislatures, and then be approved by the voters. Last year would have been the second pass, but was derailed when the Supreme Court failed to hear Indiana’s objection to lifting the same-sex marriage ban, thus allowing same-sex couples to marry. Soon thereafter, the movement to craft RFRA began.

Make no mistake: This is a consolation prize for conservative Christians and supposedly family-focused anti-gay hate groups. They, along with Catholic nuns (seriously), stood beside Gov. Mike Pence when he signed the law in a closed-door session, while refusing to name who was present. Democrats and several Republicans proposed LGBT protections as part of the new law, calling out Republicans who claim this is simply about protecting religious freedoms and not promoting discrimination. Of course, the additions were voted down.

This is about codified bigotry. This past Sunday, ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Pence was asked multiple times for a direct yes or no answer about whether LGBTs can be denied service because of this law. He deflected and did not answer … because he can’t and they can. He can’t add protections for the LGBT community because he is funded by the groups that refuse to accept them.

I feel very bad for Greg Ballard, Indianapolis’ Republican mayor, who has done an outstanding job of making Indianapolis an accepting and friendly place to live. I voted for him twice and would do it again if he ran. He’s drawn big-name companies, like Angie’s List and Cummins, to the city. Taxes are low, houses are affordable and the standard of living is high. I hate that his hard work, and the city I call home, is threatened over politicians pursuing their own religious caliphate in the heartland.

But that’s not the worst of it. People are taking sides. You start to understand how the civil war started. Friends of mine who I have always felt love me unconditionally are supporting the law, based on what they hear on Fox News and conservative radio. They think, as Pence and his legislators intend, that it’s just about guaranteeing religious freedom. That’s not how it feels. And, if that were the truth, Pence would request LGBT protections and make this go away. But he can’t peeve off his conservative supporters. And won’t.

I was very clear about this on Facebook, when I posted a piece targeting friends and family, making it clear that passive acceptance will no longer be tolerated. It hurts and I cried, but those who enable this behavior by voting for these bigots or verbally and financially support this legislation as bigots-by-proxy, can’t expect my compassion. I will not have these people in my house, near my husband or our adopted daughter. You’re with me or against me; take your pick. I will not be a black man living in my own version of 1950s Alabama. It is time for this nonsense to end. I will not unhear what was said.

As I’m typing this, our birthmother, an 18-year-old angel, sent me a text apologizing for the hateful things being said on her Facebook timeline. My husband and I are big boys; we’ve lived this hate for decades. It angers us, but it’s not unexpected. Screw with the mother of my daughter, and I suddenly feel very protective. People like her do not deserve this. And, I won’t tolerate that kind of ignorance around her — not in 2015.

This law has done what I suspect it was intended to do: Divide people, amp up donations to anti-gay hate groups, and try to shove us back under a rock. This is retribution for same-sex marriages and a gift for conservative Christians. Well, we’re already married, we already adopted and we don’t need your hideous cake.

Now, off for a fun drive with my beautiful gay family!

—  admin

The costs of Indiana’s RFRA

Laura Durso

Laura E. Durso

Backlash over the passage of the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” signed into law in Indiana last week by Gov. Mike Pence, could cost the Hoosier state as much as $250 million in economic activity — and counting — according to analysis done by the Center for American Progress.

Laura E. Durso, director of CAP’s LGBT Research and Communications Project, said in a statement released today (Wednesday, April 1), that, in just a few days, Indiana’s “license to discriminate against LGBT Americans” has managed to put about a quarter of a billion dollars at risk for the Indiana economy.

That number is based on the business activities and events that have already either publicly declared their intention to pull business from the state, or have publicly said they are considering pulling events.

That number “will only climb as long as state officials insist on disingenuously using religious freedom as a ruse to discriminate against LGBT Americans,” Durso continued. “A broad coalition of businesses, faith communities and organizations have taken a stand against this law. It is time for officials in Indiana and the roughly 30 other states where LGBT discrimination is legal to take notice.

“You cannot be pro-business and pro-discrimination at the same time,” Durso said.

This is CAP’s list of dollars lost due to the new law:
• Angie’s List: $40 million
• American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, conference: $500,000

Those at risk, according to CAP, are:
• Big Ten football, 2016–2021: $96 million ($16 million per year)
• Big Ten men’s basketball, 2020: $8 million
• Big Ten women’s basketball, 2017–2021: $10 million ($2 million per year)
• NCAA Men’s Final Four, 2021: $71 million
• NCAA Women’s Final Four, 2016: $25 million
• Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 2017 General Assembly: $5.9 million

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: Hutchinson won’t sign Arkansas ‘religious freedom’ bill

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has announced that he will not sign the “religious freedom” bill passed by lawmakers in his state last night, saying that he will instead send the measure back to the state Legislature for changes to make sure that it mirrors a federal law already in place, CNN is reporting.

Hutchinson said he made his decision because he wants Arkansas to be “known as a state that does not discriminate but understands tolerance.”

He also said he is considering issuing an executive order than bans discrimination in the state’s workforce.

Hutchinson had initially said he would sign the religious freedom bill into law. His change of heart came following the firestorm that has erupted over a similar bill signed into law last week by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and after the CEO of WalMart, Arkansas’ largest business, issued a statement urging Hutchinson to veto the bill.

Hutchinson said, “The issue has become divisive because our nation remains split on how to balance the diversity of our culture with the traditions and firmly held religious convictions. It has divided families, and there is clearly a generational gap on this issue.”

CNN notes that Hutchinson said his own son, signed a petition urging him not to sign the bill.

—  Tammye Nash

Indiana Repubs admit anti-LGBT discrimination is legal


Despite Gov. Mike Pence’s insistence that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is all about protecting religious freedom and not about discriminating against folks, two Indiana lawmakers have admitted that even without the RFRA, businesses in their state can legally post “no gays allowed” signs.

Raw Story reports that Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, acknowledged that because the state has no law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, such discrimination is legal in most parts of the state.

The admission came during the two lawmakers’ press conference  during which they said they plan to “clarify” that the RFRA doesn’t allow businesses and individuals to deny service to LGBT people on religious grounds. But one reporter pointed out glaring lack of protections:

“You guys have said repeatedly that we shouldn’t be able to discriminate against anyone, but if you just ignore the existence of this law, can’t we already do that now? Can’t so-and-so in Richmond put a sign up and say ‘No Gays Allowed?’” the reporter asked. “That’s not against the law, correct?”

Bosma admitted that unless the local community has a local ordinance protecting LGBTs such discrimination would, indeed, be allowed, and when pressed further by the reporter, he admitted that most areas of the state have no such ordinances.

The fact of the matter is, the same is true in Texas. Unless you are lucky enough to live in a town or county that has passed a non-discrimination ordinance prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination, if you are LGBT, you have no protections because there is no statewide nondiscrimination law that includes LGBTs. AND, even worse, Republicans have introduced bills in this current legislative session to negate such local ordinances that already exist and prohibit the passage of any such local ordinances in the future.

Maybe folks need to boycott our state, too. Maybe then the Republicans will pull their heads out of their asses.

Watch the Raw Story video above.

And in more Indiana RFRA news, Duke University — whose men’s basketball team is headed to Indianapolis for the Final Four — has joined the NCAA in speaking out against the law, according to Human Rights Campaign.

Duke, the University of Kentucky, Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin are headed to Indianapolis this weekend for the final three March Madness tournament games, including the championship game. Wisconsin and Michigan State both released statements relating to the passage of the bill but Duke is the only Final Four contender to publicly come out against RFRA.

Michael Schoenfeld , Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations said in a statement issued Monday (March 30), that “Duke University continues to stand alongside the LGBT community in seeking a more equal and inclusive world, and we deplore any effort to legislate bias and discrimination. We share the NCAA’s concern about the potential impact of the new law, and will be vigilant to ensure that our student-athletes, supporters, and indeed all citizens and visitors are treated fairly and with respect.”

 

—  Tammye Nash

Check out the front page of today’s Indianapolis Star

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The front page of today’s Indianapolis Star.

The Indianapolis Star, the daily newspaper of Indianapolis, Indiana, does not like the state’s controversial new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. So much that they devoted their front page, demanding the legislature amend the bill to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The newspaper is just the latest to issue a big public proclamation against the law.

According to the paper, the city’s mayor and city council in a press conference yesterday (Monday, March 30) demanded the legislature either “repeal the divisive Religious Freedom Restoration Act or add explicit protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in state law.”

Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, also issued an executive order that requires anyone who receives money from the city must follow its human rights ordinance, which has had such protections in place for a decade.

“Our city thrives because we have welcomed and embraced diversity. And RFRA threatens what thousands of people have spent decades building,” Ballard said. ”Discrimination is wrong. And I hope that message is being heard loud and clear at our Statehouse.”

You can see the front page to the right and check out the paper’s blistering editorial here.

—  James Russell

Twitter joins rising chorus of business voices against RFRA, other anti-gay legislation

In an “@Policy” Tweet today (Monday, March 30) hailed by Human Rights Campaign as a “bold move,” Twitter today declared its disappointment not just with Indiana’s newly-passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 9.21.42 PMwith the flood of similar bills and other anti-LGBT legislation being considered across the country.

The Tweet read: “We’re disappointed to see state bills that enshrine discrimination. These bills are unjust and bad for business. We support #EqualityForAll.”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to sign into law last week his state’s RFRA was the spark that lit a flame of outrage among some of the country’s leading businesses, including Apple, PayPal, Wal Mart, Yelp, Salesforce and Indiana’s own Angie’s List, officials of which last Friday (March 27) — the day after Pence signed the RFRA — announced they had decided to at least delay, if not cancel, plans for a $40 million expansion of its Indianapolis headquarters.

But in applauding Twitter’s tweeted statement today, HRC pointed out that Indiana’s RFRA is just one of more than 85 anti-LGBT bills under consideration in 28 legislatures, including Texas’, and in Arkansas a measure very similar to Indiana’s awaits Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s signature.

To see HRC’s list of pending LGBT legislation, go here. The bills fall largely into four categories: religious refusal bills, bills promoting conversion therapy, anti-transgender bills and bills nullifying local nondiscrimination statutes.

Texas lawmakers have introduced bills in three of those four categories: religious refusal bills, anti-transgender bills and bills to nullify local nondiscrimination ordinances. To see Equality Texas’ list of legislative alerts, go here.

—  Tammye Nash