Indiana found itself in a national firestorm after Governor Mike Pence (R) signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law. RFRA is perceived as granting religious business owners the right to refuse service for members of the LGBT community, but other laws similar to RFRA have not had that result. LGBT advocates believe the law legalizes discrimination similar to that which African Americans faced in the segregation era. LGBT advocates use phrases like, “We decided everyone could sit at the counter 50 years ago,” and, “No hate in our state!” Interestingly, many economic conservatives opposed the law because they believe it will deter businesses from locating in Indiana. So far, the RFRA hasn’t boded well for Indiana.
In response to LGBT advocates, social conservatives expressed their approval of the law. Backers of RFRA are ecstatic that a baker or florist with strong religious convictions aren’t required to offer their wedding services to homosexual couples. Essentially, when a service itself violates someone’s religious beliefs, a business owner doesn’t have to provide a service. RFRA advocates also point to a federal RFRA law signed by President Clinton in 1993 and an Illinois RFRA law that President Obama supported during his Illinois state legislature tenure. RFRA exists in a total of 19 states. However, this last argument overlooks the fact that the Indiana law is stricter than other aforementioned laws. Indiana’s RFRA explicitly states that businesses can assert their, “free exercise of religion,” which is rare language only found in South Carolina’s version of RFRA. Ultimately, the Indiana’s RFRA may be overturned by the courts.
Here’s my two cents: should companies refuse service to members of the LGBT community? Of course not. Businesses should open their doors to any patrons willing to spend their hard earned dollars. To not do so is both morally wrong and unprofitable. However, should the government force business owners to serve people if those owners believe that providing the service violates their religious beliefs? Once again, no. We do not need big government stepping in and telling businesses who they must serve. Also, why would a member of the LGBT community want someone that is fundamentally opposed to their right to marry baking their wedding cake or snapping photos at the reception? People should want to take their business somewhere they are appreciated for who they are, rather than giving their money to someone who does not support their community.