Monday, March 30, 2015

Mike Pence-- Pandering To The Worst Of The Republican Party Base


C.S. Lewis, probably best known for The Chronicles of Narnia, died on November 22, 1963, the same day Aldous Huxley died and the same day JFK was assassinated. When Lewis passed away, Mike Pence, who went on ABC's This Week to insist he isn't a bigot, was just 4 years old. Perhaps when he was 4, he wasn't a bigot. But he has been for his entire public career. Lewis could well have been referencing the future Mr. Pence when he wrote
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for there good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good, will torment us without end.
When Pence was the most extreme right-wing member of the House Republican leadership, he ratted out Boehner for having had an affair with Beltway lobbyist Lisbeth Lyons but lost the ensuing power struggle and retired from Congress. Now he's governor of Indiana. He doesn't win in places like Bloomington, Gary and Indianapolis-- and when he runs for president eventually, he knows those aren't the kinds of places where his support will be coming from.

The corporate media seems to be trying to define him as "mainstream," but he was on with George Stephanopoulos to defend the viciously homophobic, widely condemned "religious liberty" law he signed last week. "This is not about discrimination," he blathered. "This is about empowering people to confront government overreach." Sure it is! Jennifer Pizer, Senior Councel for Lambda Legal patiently explained-- though not to George Stephanouplos' audience-- just how ugly and bigoted Pence's new law is.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence rushed today to sign SB 101, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)”-- so-called, though it’s not restoring religious rights; it’s expanding them.

In his signing statement, Gov. Pence gave Hoosiers a misleading picture of how dangerous this new law is. Passed by the Indiana Senate in February, and the Indiana House of Representatives just days ago, one has to wonder: What’s the rush?

The truth is, Indiana’s RFRA is designed to allow and in some respects, invites people to disregard laws that should apply to everyone conducting a business-- laws to prevent people from harming each other in the name of religion.

At Lambda Legal, our top concern is religiously motivated discrimination against people already vulnerable to exclusion and mistreatment, especially the LGBT community.

Gov. Pence, in his signing statement, said, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it. In fact, it does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved."

He’s wrong, or disingenuous, on both points. If this new law does not seek to facilitate discrimination, why did legislators pressing for its passage say it’s “needed” to allow businesses to turn away same-sex couples? And why did a majority of Indiana legislators then reject amendments offered to specify that these enhanced religious rights cannot be used to excuse discrimination? 

Further, about disputes between private parties, the law says explicitly, “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” This language was included to allow private parties to object to following a law that otherwise would apply to them, and to assert these expanded religious rights in a dispute with another private party.

A stark problem for LGBT Hoosiers is that unlike in other states, Indiana law does not include sexual orientation and gender identity within the state’s nondiscrimination framework.

When antigay lawmakers say laws like this are “needed,” and they point to cases from other states where we successfully resisted use of religion to defend discrimination, they don’t acknowledge that a statewide nondiscrimination law was on the books in those places. Currently, less than half the states have such laws.

A dozen Indiana municipalities do have nondiscrimination protections in place... Gov. Pence and the law’s supporters say it doesn’t dictate the outcome of conflicts, and that LGBT people will still be able to argue about their needs in court. But this is precisely why we are so concerned. Most people lack the desire, let alone the resources, to litigate when refused service, when rejected and turned away, when publicly humiliated just for who they are. They don’t run to court; instead, they simply absorb the hurtful, demeaning message of being unwelcome, and they go elsewhere.

It is no secret that many of those pressing so intensely to enact laws of this type are doing so in negative response to same-sex couples being newly able to marry (as they can in Indiana thanks to litigation of which Lambda Legal is very proud).

When the politically endorsed message is that religious reasons for conduct should be elevated above other shared civic values and interests, that message encourages the exclusions, the hostile rhetoric, and the social stigma that enact a terrible toll on the health of LGBT people.

As Indiana business leaders, Republican mayors and others said when urging Gov. Pence to pause and consider before signing, this new law takes Indiana in the wrong direction. Now, while Lambda Legal stands by to do our best to help those turned away from businesses, refused jobs, housing or medical care, protest campaigns are emerging by Athlete Ally (#final4fairness), convention planners and religious groups. The economic and legal consequences for Indiana will unfold with time.

But two things are certain. This confusing, needless law will bring an increase in discord, discrimination and litigation. And, it would have been far, far better for the good people of Indiana if Gov. Pence had opened his eyes wider to the needs of his state, and vetoed rather than embracing this bill.
And, when you've lost Angie's List...

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At 7:07 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Sorry for the OT comments but... For those of you who’ve been out of the loop, there was a death in our family a few days ago and the air fare and a car malfunction really put a crimp in our finances. Details are here, if you wish to help or at least pass the word. Thank you so much in advance.

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty good list of Indiana products HERE.

I always have mixed reviews about boycotts, but the people on the other end of these returned products
(VERY satisfying to take one back) VOTE.


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