“As of this afternoon, Indiana’s Republican governor Mike Pence has just signed a “religious freedom” bill that would empower private businesses to discriminate against LGBT people if their “conscience” should compel them. The targets of this legislation are clear in spite of the sometimes cloudy language used by politicians to describe it.
One man who was far from circumspect was Eric Miller, a right wing lobbyist who is one of the bill’s fathers. According to CNN: “On his website, Miller highlighted examples of the law’s effect: Christian bakers, florists and photographers won’t have to participate in ‘homosexual marriage,’ he wrote, while Christian businesses won’t be punished for ‘refusing to allow a man to use the women’s restroom.’” Given the latter slur it’s quite clear who is being targeted here. I myself now feel nervous about attending a conference in Indiana in July.
We are confronted with a backlash against LGBT rights in general. The outbreak of so-called “religious freedom” legislation — like Indiana’s new law and a similar law in Arkansas that overrides local anti-discrimination legislation — is part of a trend toward crowdsourcing anti-gay/anti-trans bigotry in the United States.
What is alarming about these laws is that they empower the worst instincts and prejudices of individuals, compel them to act as surrogates of the state, and ennoble these bigoted tendencies with the sanctity of an inalienable right. Rather than relying on the top-down legislative proposals of a decade past (remember the abortive Constitutional amendment proposal to ban same-sex marriage?), the far right is now coming after LGBT people from the other end, legalizing and empowering private discriminatory practice as a means of rolling back the tide of progress we’ve seen since the turn of the century.
This is the challenge that faces us over the next decade, as the parade of legal victories for same sex marriage becomes the settled law of the land, our right as LGBT people to be free from discrimination is increasingly being eroded. In denying us the protection of the state, these new laws seek to throw us to the wolves of crowdsourced prejudice, obviating the full exercise of our supposedly newfound freedoms.
This map, produced by the Human Rights Campaign, gives some sense of the scale of the problem.”
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