I have no desire to defend President Obama, but I must part company with Emily Zanotti’s characterization of Indiana’s newly enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act as “almost identical” to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act he supported when he was a State Senator in Illinois nearly two decades ago.
Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act goes far beyond the Illinois statute which Obama supported and, for that matter, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. While the federal and most of state acts protected religious assemblies and institutions, the Indiana statute extends to for profit businesses. Indeed, it is very similar to the law passed in Arizona last year before then Governor Jan Brewer wisely vetoed it.
The Indiana law, like the ill-fated Arizona statute, was drafted in response to a decision by the New Mexico State Supreme Court which allowed a same sex couple to sue a photographer who refused to take pictures of their wedding. The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal to the ruling last year.
Those who support the Indiana law might call it a victory for religious freedom. It is true that millions around the world have been killed for their religious beliefs. But if religious freedom means nothing more depriving people of good and services that they have the money to pay for be it a photographer denying to take pictures of a same sex couple, a Muslim cab driver refusing to ferry a passenger with a guide dog and or denying someone housing because they are Jewish, then I want no part of it.
UPDATE I: It appears that Indiana Republicans are planning to modify law. At this point, it isn’t clear if Republicans will accept an amendment which Indiana Senate Democrats moved which would state that businesses could not discriminate; an amendment the GOP majority voted against during the committee stage.
UPDATE II: I see that Emily has written an additional post mocking Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy’s boycott of Indiana over its RFRA law when Connecticut has its own. However, as with the federal RFRA and Illinois RFRA, the Connecticut RFRA does not apply to businesses.