I made a tweet today to the effect that 1 April would be the perfect time for Indiana to declare that their deceptively-named Religious Freedom Restoration Act is an elaborate hoax. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that’s happening. In truth, I hadn’t really looked that closely into the law, and since most of the places where I get information lean left and secular, it was certainly possible I was mistaken on how bad it is. Having looked at some information on it, however, I don’t think I was at all. No, it doesn’t specifically say businesses could discriminate against gay people (obviously), but the suspicious thing is that I haven’t notice anybody saying what else the law is for. If it’s not about discrimination, what IS it about? Just saying “religious freedom” means nothing; we already have that. It also doesn’t help that groups in support of the law tend to have “Family” in their names, which is usually a sign that they’re in support of discrimination, with the possible exception of the Trapp Family Singers. When did we allow anti-gay organizations to steal the word “family”? Same-sex couples are still families, aren’t they? That’s like how the entire purpose of the National Organization for Marriage was to STOP certain people from getting married. There’s a lot of tricky language going on there. Religion doesn’t strike me as the cause so much as the excuse for such discrimination. I’m sure there are people who sincerely believe that gay marriage is leading the country down a rainbow highway to Hell, but is that at all true of the politicians and lobbyists who promote such rhetoric for their own ends? When you think about it, why would the profit-driven Republicans ever support businesses that want to turn down money? I suppose it has to do with the general idea that businesses should be able to do whatever they want. If we take away their right to refuse to bake cakes for same-sex weddings, next they’ll lose the right to pay people way lower than a living wage!
Defenders of the law have compared it to the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and indeed there’s some language in common. The differences, however, are significant. The federal law says that the government isn’t allowed to restrict the religious freedoms of individuals unless there’s a damned good reason for it. The Indiana law extends that protection to businesses, and doesn’t require the government to be involved in order for someone to sue. The main impetus for the federal act was that Native Americans wanted to use peyote in their religious ceremonies. It’s about individual rights, while the Indiana law is pretty much the opposite in some ways. Individuals usually aren’t the ones who benefit when major corporations are allowed to have their way, except when those individuals are executives or majority stockholders. Gay marriage has become a symbol of the acceptance of homosexuality in general, and bigots aren’t too keen on that. I frequently see people say, “They’re not trying to force YOU to marry someone of the same sex,” which is entirely true, but I think it’s kind of beside the point as marriage isn’t really the issue. Change that makes fundamentalist conservatives uncomfortable is. The thing is, while I think society at large is very much moving forward in this respect, it kind of seems like we’re moving backwards when it comes to individual rights in other respects. The idea that corporations have the same rights as people is a pretty recent development. So is the concept that people with more money have more right to free speech. Unions have largely fallen out of public favor. Hey, Scott Walker is a leading Republican presidential candidate, and pretty much the only thing anyone knows about him is that he’s a union buster. (Come to think of it, if that union was set up to petition against the government, shouldn’t Republicans have been in favor of it? Maybe we don’t need compassionate conservatism so much as consistent conservatism.) Progress is happening, but it’s hardly a straight march to societal improvement.