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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 3, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 14
Republicans walk back 'freedom of bigotry' laws
Section One
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Republicans walk back 'freedom of bigotry' laws

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In the face of sustained national outcry several Republican governors have walked back their support of laws that allow discrimination against LGBT Americans under the cover of 'freedom of religion.'

Many national corporations, including Middle American icons NASCAR and the NCAA, and 39 major tech corporations threatened to boycott Indiana over that state's RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act). Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Washington Governor Jay Inslee banned official travel to Indiana, as did other officials in other states and municipalities.

Embattled Indiana Governor Mike Pence is now likely to sign an amendment to his state's law that contains new anti-discrimination language.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said he would veto a similar measure he had previously promised to sign, and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder also promised to veto the bill pending in his state's Senate if it came to his desk.

North Carolina's Republican Governor Pat McCrory said a similar measure being debated in his state 'makes no sense' and should not be passed.

The Republican controlled Montana legislature defeated a 'religious freedom' bill March 27 on a 50-50 vote. In Georgia the legislative committee handling their RFRA cancelled its March 30 meeting without rescheduling a hearing on the bill.

INDIANA
In Indiana, the epicenter of the controversy, the legislature passed an amendment to the original RFRA stating that businesses may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Gov. Pence is expected to sign it, in spite of calls from the extreme anti-Gay right to veto the compromise measure.

Former Indianapolis mayor and current Eli Lilly executive Bart Peterson said this marks the first time those words would appear in Indiana anti-discrimination laws.

Nevertheless, LGBT activists said the 'fix' does not go far enough.

'This bill reduces the threat but is far less than this situation requires,' Lambda Legal said in a statement.

'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. We've provided multiple options of straightforward bill language. This is not a complicated or novel task. Many states have done it with only positive results economically and socially. The time is now. America is watching.'

ARKANSAS
Although he previously promised to sign his state's 'religious freedom' bill, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison said on April 1 that he would not accept the version pending in the legislature - one reportedly even more dangerous to LGBT rights than Indiana's.

That night, the Arkansas Senate approved a number of changes to the measure, bringing it in line with the federal RFRA. That law only applies to government entities and not to businesses that provide public accommodations like restaurants, hotels, hospitals, or bus and train stations.

MICHIGAN
The Michigan House of Representative passed its RFRA version in December last year, but the bill is still pending in the Senate. Governor Rick Snyder said on April 2 that he will veto the measure if it is presented to him.

'I would veto RFRA legislation in Michigan if it is a standalone piece of legislation,' Snyder told the Detroit Free Press.

'There are strong feelings on these issues. We're working hard to see if there is a better way to address religious freedom and equality.

'This is an important issue from a neighboring state and given what's going on in Indiana, I wanted to give greater clarity. I believe in religious freedom but I strongly oppose discrimination of any kind.'

He added that he would not support any legislation that did not have accompanying protections for LGBT people. Sponsors of Michigan's 'religious freedom' bill said they intended to go ahead with moving the bill through the legislature, however.

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