Embattled Indiana Republican Governor Mike Pence told reporters on Tuesday that the storm surrounding the state’s decision to pass a discriminatory religious freedom law had finally passed. Pence confidently declared:
I think the difficult time that Indiana just passed through two weeks ago is behind us.
Reeling from his declining approval numbers, and a sustained backlash from passing the law, Pence is trying to put the controversy behind him. Indiana hired a global public relations firm, Porter Novelli, and the state is paying them over two million dollars to try to mend Indiana’s tarnished image.
Pence defended hiring the PR firm, and he stated:
We’ve got a great story to tell. I really do believe that we are through the storm, that now’s the time to heal.
Whether it is wishful thinking or cynical damage control, Pence’s words came against a backdrop where Indiana Republican lawmakers are continuing to cast their votes for, rather than against, anti-gay discrimination.
Republican lawmakers shot down a bill introduced by Democrat Rep. Ed Delaney (Indianapolis) on Tuesday which would have extended statewide protections to gays and lesbians from discrimination in housing, employment, education and public accommodation. They also killed a separate measure, on a 40-10 party-line vote, simply to create a committee to study the possibility of adding statewide protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
So while Governor Pence is trying to declare the storm is over, members of his party continue to keep the issue alive, by refusing to reject discrimination against LGBT residents. No matter how much Governor Pence spends on pricey PR firms to repair Indiana’s image, the Hoosier brand will remain soiled, as long as Republicans continue to dominate state politics with their antiquated, homophobic views. Instead of hiring a PR firm maybe the Republican Party should shift their focus away from damage control, and actually try to do the right thing, by rejecting discrimination in all its forms.
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.