Letter: Repeal law or broaden antidiscrimination statute

From: Barbara Smitherman


Because of the amount of national attention to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Gov. Mike Pence and a couple of our legislators are now doing interviews and news conferences trying to rectify what is a distasteful view of our state and themselves.

The governor has called the reaction to the signing of this law only a “perception” and acknowledges the law needs to be fixed. The law has been perceived, as he says, incorrectly and is not intended to be discriminatory. In the next breath he says it needs to be changed. Why, if in fact, as he says, it’s not discriminatory?

He also says the media are to blame for driving this perception. I believe he and legislators were contacted by some of the largest companies headquartered in Indiana — Eli Lilly, Angie’s List, Cummins and others. NASCAR is objecting, and this really ill-conceived law has gained precedence over the NCAA Final Four being played this weekend. Two of our biggest and best sporting event coordinators have expressed negative reactions. Conventions that are scheduled in Indianapolis are reconsidering whether or not to invite their members here. Sounds like a lot more than perception.

Pence appears to feel blindsided by the outcry. I listened intently to his news conference today, and he makes no apology, appearing to believe he doesn’t need to. Everyone else has created the problem.

According to our governor, it’s all misinformation — misunderstood and just a perception. In fact, for several years our Legislature has tried to pass an amendment to the Indiana Constitution to say marriage can only be between a man and a woman. This was an outright attempt to discriminate against the LGBT people, not disguised as religious freedom. It only had to be tabled because of some procedural rule. It will be back.

Pence, as have others, described the Indiana RFRA as no different from what other states and the federal government have done. He says, even Bill Clinton did it, as if that will mollify some. Has nothing changed in this country in the last 22 years? Obviously not in Indiana.

Other states have nondiscrimination laws against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in place. We do not. That’s different. This law includes individuals, businesses, corporations, LLCs and nearly every other entity in the state. The federal law has to do with protections of religious minorities and interactions with the government, not private transactions. It is definitely not the same.

The governor may have a different belief or perception than I do about discrimination; however, there is only one way to fix this law — repeal it. Or pass legislation ending all discrimination against LGBT people by including them in the Indiana Civil Rights Act and prove he and our legislators don’t discriminate.