About 20-24 hours ago, George Takei posted a thank you to those who boycotted Indiana for passing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because Governor Mike Pence signed a “fix” that corrected the RFRA to prevent potential discrimination against the LGBT community. With the amendment that stated the RFRA “does NOT authorize anyone to refuse to provide services, facilities, public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to anyone on the basis of certain characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity,” Takei said he would replace #BoycottIndiana with #IndianaForAll (the quotes are from Takei’s Facebook posting, not the actual amendment). Mr. Takei deserves a lot of credit for being the public face on the pressure to take the state of Indiana to task for a very troubling law and gaining this victory. However even he concedes that this is only part of the problem.
Fixing the RFRA to not allow discrimination does not prevent such discrimination from happening. If you look on the Human Rights Campaign website, you can see an interactive map showing which states do and don’t protect the LGBT community in terms of hate crimes, housing and job discrimination, and accommodation laws. For example, right now there are 20 states that don’t have ANY laws to protect the LGBT community in such measures—even hate crimes. Of those states that do have such laws, 15 of those states only apply to those crimes based on sexual orientation; not gender. While Indiana’s (and also Arkansas’ law) have made adjustment to the RFRA laws to prevent businesses from hiding behind “religious grounds” when discriminating, they do not make such discrimination a criminal act. In other words you can legally refuse to sell a gay couple cake for their wedding, you just can’t claim to do it for religious reasons.
The bigger problem here is the civil rights issues surrounding the LGBT community, especially concerning transgender issues. There are too many states that fail to provide basic protection for the LGBT community; in some states, the “blue laws” still on the books are a de facto criminalization of homosexuality. This cannot stand and should not be overlooked. We cannot be allowed anyone in this country to be reduced to second-class citizenship no matter what rationale you base it on. We’re either all free or none of us are. That is the true fight against the RFRA in Indiana and they should not be let off the hook just yet.
He band Wilco, in reinstating its concert in Indiana over the controversy, has called the amendment a good first step. Mr. Takei has called on Indiana to take up the fight for providing the LGBT community protection from discrimination. Luckily they are looking past the celebration of a winning battle ahead to the larger civil rights war ahead.
Please take a look at the Human Rights Campaign “civil rights map” here.