Indiana’s largest newspaper is telling the state’s governor to “Fix this Now.” The Indianapolis Star is dedicating its entire cover Tuesday to condemn the state’s controversial new so-called religious freedom law. The editorial piece says the new law hurts Indiana’s reputation as a welcoming place for people of different cultures and backgrounds. It also calls for Governor Mike Pence to enact a state law that bans discrimination of any kind based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Those opposed to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) say it would give legal protection to businesses that deny services to the LGBT community based on religious beliefs. Supporters of the law say it provides protection under state law for religious liberty.
In a press conference Monday, Mayor Greg Ballard condemned the new law again and told those gathered that he has issued an executive order that requires any entity receiving public funds to abide by the city’s human rights ordinance. In addition, his executive order calls on state lawmakers to make sexual orientation and gender identity protected under Indiana law. The Indianapolis City-County Council also passed a measure before a standing room only crowd condemning the law on Monday night. Meanwhile, the NCAA says it’s concerned how the law will affect its student athletes during the upcoming Final Four that gets underway in Indianapolis with festivities on Friday and men’s college basketball games on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Governor Pence is continuing to defend the controversial “religious freedom” law. In an op-ed piece published today in the Wall Street Journal, Pence says the law ensures religious liberty is fully protected under state law.
“I want to make clear to Hoosiers and every American that despite what critics and many in the national media have asserted, the law is not a “license to discriminate,” either in Indiana or elsewhere.”
Pence also made an appearance on Fox New’s “Fox and Friends” Tuesday Morning around 8:15 a.m. Eastern, saying that this law is actually similar to laws that some Democrats have supported in the past–pointing to then-President Bill Clinton signing federal legislation and now-President Barack Obama supporting Illinois legislation when he was a state senator. The truth is, the national RFRA had nothing to do with this type of usage, nor its firestorm. [Learn more about the real story of the federal legislation and who it really protected by clicking this link. It might surprise you who versus the “mis-justifications” now.] The Illinois legislation was governmental in its aim. Click the link to read it for yourself. A non-discriminatory policy, particularly keeping the LGBT community in mind already was in place.
So far, major businesses like Apple, Walmart and Salesforce have either spoken out against the law, or vowed to sever economic ties with the state. Even Chicago’s embattled mayor, Rahm Emanuel has weighed-in because our neighbor to the north up Interstate-65, in the Windy City, could be looking to take advantage of Indiana’s RFRA and the firestorm that followed Pence’s signing. Emanuel says he wants to lure this state’s businesses over to Illinois if possible. Reports indicate that he sent out a dozen letters to Indiana businesses promoting a friendlier environment there. Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce CEO, Michael Huber calls the move by Emanuel and other cities attempting to lure away Indiana businesses because of this, “shameful.” Huber went on to say there’s still time to right the wrong from a business standpoint.
Huber may be right but despite what he and Pence say, the fallout continues. Other states are taking other action against Indiana’s RFRA. Washington state Governor Jay Inslee is placing an administration-wide ban on all state funded travel to this state. Portland, Oregon’s mayor also issued a ban on Monday on any city-funded travel to Indiana. Similar announcements have been made also by the mayors of Seattle and San Francisco, in addition to Connecticut’s governor. The mayor of Seattle went as far to announce that he was going to work on getting the next U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting booked here in Indianapolis moved. He didn’t mention a date for that meeting.
Concerts and conferences are pulling away from Indiana. On Monday, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) announced they are yanking their 2015 Women’s Conference from the city in response to the signing of this legislation into law by Pence. That conference was scheduled to be held at the JW Marriott in downtown Indy in early October. Indy NBC-TV affiliate, WTHR, is reporting that also on Monday evening, a comedic acting husband/wife duo has pulled their summer comedy tour stop here in the city on May 16. They are Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally. You may know Offerman as “Ron Swanson” from the network’s show “Parks and Recreation” which was based on the Parks Department in a fictitious Indiana town. Mullally is best known as the wacky and rich “Karen” from the network’s show, “Will & Grace.” The band Wilco also pulled it’s May 7 concert on Monday at the Murat Theatre in downtown Indy citing that Indiana’s new RFRA law “feels like thinly disguised legal discrimination.” They made their announcement via Facebook.
Pence has a new high-profile ally that has joined the frey. That supporter is 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. Cruz has issued a written statement. In it, he says, “Governor Pence is holding the line to protect religious liberty in the Hoosier State. Indiana is giving voice to millions of courageous conservatives across this country who are deeply concerned about the ongoing attacks upon our personal liberties. I’m proud to stand with Mike, and I urge Americans to do the same.” Cruz joined other 2016 bandied about Republican names likely to run for president who quickly attempted to give Pence political cover. Those potential candidates are Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, and Ben Carson.
Pence is scheduled to speak at the statehouse downtown at 11 a.m. this morning.
Follow me on Twitter @kwellscomm.