Indiana Religious Liberties Law Clarified to Prohibit Denial of Services to Gays and Lesbians

Call it the law of unintended consequences, but the ruckus over Indiana’s religious liberties law has resulted in some strengthened  protection of gays and lesbians in employment. Under the original law signed by Governor Mike Pence, a business or individual that denied services because of religious conviction could assert as a defense that the demand for services imposes a substantial burden on the free exercise of religion.

But a few days ago–in response to the criticism of the law from LGBT groups and businesses, including Apple and Angie’s List–the Indiana legislature enacted and Governor Pence signed an amendment to the law which clarified that no provider may deny services–including employment services–to any member of the public based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

That’s  a breakthrough for Indiana, which before now offered no protections in law based on those characteristics.

LBGT advocates will next push to amend the state’s employment discrimination law to make it unlawful to discriminate in employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity–just as it is unlawful to discriminate because of race, gender, national origin, and religion.

Defenders of the original law argued that it protects persons and businesses from having to violate their religious beliefs in the provision of services, while the critics contended that it was a not so subtle way to allow these persons and businesses to refuse services because of the recipient’s sexual orientation.

Maybe this clarification will defuse the controversy for a while. But almost half the states in this country have these types of Religious Freedom Restoration Acts-so we’ll likely be hearing about this issue  again at some point.

 

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