Saturday, March 28, 2015

Twitter Lights Up with Critical Commentary About Indiana Governor Pence and New Anti-Gay "Religious Freedom" Law

As Tom Boggioni reports yesterday morning for Alternet and Raw Story, Governor Pence of Indiana is taking quite a pounding on Twitter after he signed his state's anti-gay "religious freedom" law in a private ceremony closed to the public, in which he surrounded himself with "religious leaders" including a bunch of Catholic nuns and friars in traditional garb. Rachel Maddow also points out  that, though Pence took this step to place himself in the national limelight as a potential presidential candidate, his anti-gay initiative "is landing with a thud."

As Rachel Percelay notes for Media Matters, though Fox news is (predictably) trying to spin the Indiana legislation as no big deal, just another state-level iteration of the federal RFRA (religious freedom act), the Indiana law is, in contrast to the RFRA, so loosely written — and deliberately so — that it permits virtually any kind of discrimination against targeted individuals and groups, in the name of religious belief. Derrick Snyder makes the same point in a tweet noting that calling the Indiana law an unremarkable version of the RFRA is a "lazy talking point." As Snyder reminds us, the Indiana law is "purposely broad and vague and open for abuse."

Candida Moss and Joel Baden succinctly sum up the purpose of the Indiana law, with its appeal to "religious freedom" as a basis for targeting despised minority groups: 

But with this new legislation the State of Indiana has solidified the rights of a powerful majority to discriminate against a marginal group. This law doesn’t overturn prior practice; it reinforces practices that are, in Indiana, already common, and in ways that often go unnoted. . . . This legislation permits businesses and institutions that provide basic needs and services—like food, shelter, healthcare, and transportation—to put the lives of a less privileged few in peril.

In fact, as Michael Barbara and Erik Eckholm report for New York Times, Indiana business leaders including the state's Chamber of Commerce leader Kevin Brinegar pled with Pence not to sign the anti-gay law, since it's "entirely unnecessary." The religious rights of Indiana citizens are already protected, while the rights of LGBT citizens are already not protected. As Brineger notes, what Pence has chosen to do will now bring national negative publicity to the state that actually threatens the business climate in Indiana, rather than enhances it.

Here are some of the tweets taking aim at Pence and the bigotry he has just chosen to enshrine in Indiana law:

And so it goes, 28 March CE 2015, in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Watch for Arkansas to be next, as our new Republican governor proudly signs into law a similar bill pandering to the hard religious right. Because votes.

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