What you need to know about Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ law – USA TODAY
After Indiana Gov. Mike Pence passed the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week, it has been condemned by tech, business and political leaders on the grounds that it was anti-gay and a detriment to hiring the best and the brightest for jobs.
Amid criticism, Pence remained resolute on Sunday, saying that while he is open to clarifying the law, there are no plans to change it.
In case you need to be brought up to speed, here are answers to important questions regarding the law.
What does the law say exactly?
The ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ says the government cannot “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow their religious beliefs, unless it can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden or do so in the least restrictive way.
What does that mean?
Well, proponents of the law say that it will prevent the government from infringing on people and their ability to exercise their religious beliefs. Whereas, opponents say it could allow business owners to legally discriminate against the LGBT community.
In Indiana, a handful of cities have local non-discrimination laws that specifically protect gay and lesbians in employment, housing and education. Many worry that the religious freedom law will impact the LGBT communities in areas without local non-discrimination laws and whether the law might allow people to challenge local non-discrimination laws in areas where they do exist.
What actions are business leaders taking against Indiana’s law?
Business and tech leaders say religious freedom legislation will hurt their ability to recruit talent because potential job seekers may worry about discrimination.
For example, Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle said his company is canceling plans for a $40 million expansion of its Indianapolis headquarters because of his disagreement with the religious freedom law.
In addition, Apple CEO Tim Cook joined other tech leaders, including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, in blasting the law. Cook said the Indiana measure sparked a “very dangerous … wave of legislation,” in a Washington Post op-ed on Sunday. He tweeted that he was “disappointed in the law” and hoped the Arkansas governor would veto a similar bill.
Why has the NCAA been so vocal?
The National Collegiate Athletic Association President Mark Emmert released a statement on Thursday that the organization was, “especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.”
The NCAA is headquartered in Indianapolis and the Final Four basketball teams will play at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on April 4.
Are people boycotting Indiana?
San Francisco mayor Edwin Lee and Seattle’s mayor Ed Murray are both banning city-funded travel to the state of Indiana.
Celebrities and politicians have tweeted their disapproval of the bill. In the past seven days, over 200,000 people have used the hashtag #BoycottIndiana in response to the bill, according to Topsy, a Twitter analytics tool.
Is Indiana the first to enact such a law?
As more states have legalized same-sex marriage, opponents have pushed back with religious freedom laws. This year, 16 states have introduced legislation to create or alter existing state religious freedom laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
On Friday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he would support a similar religious freedom bill that passed through the Arkansas Senate. Over the weekend, a Georgia House panel cancelled a meeting to discuss moving a religious freedom bill back onto the table for a vote on Tuesday. The bill passed the Georgia Senate but was tabled in the House.
Contributing: Stephanie Wang, The Indianapolis Star.
Follow @MaryBowerman on Twitter.