On Monday afternoon, Indiana’s Republican dominated House passed a bill that would protect business owners who refuse to provide services for same-sex couples. Under the guise of protecting “religious freedom”, the measure grants businesses the right to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
The bill passed the House 63-31, with all 26 House Democrats voting NO. Republicans split 63-5 in favor of the legislation. The Indiana Senate passed a similar bill earlier in March. The author of the Senate Bill, Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) plans to reconcile the House and Senate versions, so that a final bill can be sent to Governor Mike Pence (R), to be signed into law. Pence stated, on Monday, that he intends to sign the legislation into law, when it reaches his desk.
Supporters of the bill tried to justify their vote as standing up for religious freedom. For example, Rep. Tom Washburne (R-Inglefield) defended his vote, arguing:
It’s important that we allow our citizens to hold religious beliefs, maybe even those we might be appalled by, and to be able to express those.
Nice try, but it’s hard to imagine that Republicans are appalled by religious bigots discriminating against gays and lesbians. Instead, they are all too eager to put their stamp of approval on anti-LGBT laws. Republicans want to extend special protections to Christian bigots, by exempting them from having to comply with laws that prohibit discrimination.
Governor Mike Pence signaled his support for the anti-gay legislation, by stating:
[The legislation]… is about respecting and reassuring Hoosiers that their religious freedoms are intact. I strongly support the legislation and applaud the members of the General Assembly for their work on this important issue. I look forward to signing the bill when it reaches my desk.
Conservative Republicans, like Pence, use religion as a crutch to hide behind, so that they can practice the ugliness of bigotry while masquerading as God-fearing Christians. If Governor Pence has a working moral compass, he should veto this legislation, and stand up for the rights of all Indianans against hatred and bigotry. If instead, Pence signs the legislation, the Republican Party will continue to be seen as a political party that caters to narrow-minded bigots, and deservedly so.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.