(Indianapolis, Indiana) When a state’s governor goes on national television and explains that a bill he just signed into law needs clarification, you know the bill is a troubled piece of legislation.
When state legislative leaders from that same governor’s party hold a press conference to explain that the legislation they just recently passed needs to be revisited and clarified, you know the bill is a troubled piece of legislation.
Reminiscent of former U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “We have to pass the bill to see what’s in it.” moment, efforts by Governor Mike Pence, Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long to deflect criticism to their passage of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act come off eerily similar to Pelosi’s ill-chosen words. Simply put, in their haste to pass legislation that appeases their far right wing through subtle changes in the bill’s language, they pushed through a bad piece of legislation that will undoubtedly carry unintended economic, political and social consequences — consequences proponents and opponents alike will come to regret.
This law needs to be repealed.
This legislation had the potential of building a coalition of support not seen since its resounding federal passage in 1993. At that time, the federal bill passed the U.S. House unanimously and the U.S. Senate in a 97-3 vote. It brought together religious fundamentalists and civil libertarians alike. Everyone seemed to like the concept of protecting our rights to religious freedoms and underscoring the importance of our nation’s 1st Amendment. Regardless of the polarizing rhetoric we are hearing today, the concept of respect for differing religious (and non-religious) beliefs is still embraced by a strong majority.
Unfortunately, Indiana’s GOP legislative majority authored a bill that slants the “two-way tolerance” Governor Pence sought solidly in one direction. In doing so, they jeopardized what otherwise could have been a bill celebrated by all.