Indiana Just Made It Easier to Discriminate Against Gay People—And Just About Anyone Else

The law Gov. Mike Pence signed Thursday morning allows Indianans to cite their religious beliefs as an excuse for discrimination.

<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-107872928/stock-photo-antique-frame-isolated-on-white-background.html?src=csl_recent_image-1">robert_s</a>/Shutterstock; <a href=http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-147926381">501room</a>/Shutterstock

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Over loud objections from Indiana business leaders, GOP Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law Thursday that protects business owners who refuse service to gay and lesbian customers on religious grounds. Organizers of mass events in Indianapolis, including the NCAA’s Final Four, immediately decried the law as discriminatory, and suggested that the bill might cause the state to lose out on future business.

The law allows Indianans who are sued for discrimination to cite their religious beliefs as a defense. It applies to a broad range of situations. An employer who refused to hire Jewish employees could cite his religious beliefs as a defense against discrimination lawsuits. So could a landlord who refused to rent to Muslims, or a business that refused to serve atheists.

At a news conference that followed the private signing, Pence explaining he signed the bill “because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith…Today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.” He cited the University of Notre Dame’s fight to prevent its employees from accessing birth control as an example.

Pence may have signed the bill as a way to better position himself for a run in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries. Last year, facing opposition from Democrats and state business leaders, and intense media scrutiny, Pence and conservative Republicans abandoned a bill that would have banned same-sex marriage in Indiana. But the bill Pence signed Thursday drew much less organized opposition and press.

Pence disputed the idea that this latest bill allowed discrimination. “If I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it,” he said.

Lawmakers have introduced bills permitting businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals in almost two dozen states this year. They are part of a wave of anti-LGBT bills that has crested as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on whether same-sex marriage should be legal throughout the county. The decision will likely come down in June.

After Pence signed the bill, Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player before he retired last year, sounded off on Twitter:

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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