Religion

Legal Discrimination?: Indiana State Senate Passes Controversial New Bill

| by Kendal Mitchell
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Indiana state senators approved a bill on Tuesday that may allow businesses to refuse service to married same-sex couples.

Passing the Senate with a 40-10 vote, the bill is on its way to the State House of Representatives. The bill states any corporation would be allowed to refuse its services to customers based on the premise of religious freedom.

“If you were to ask the question, what is the single most important pillar of our democracy, chances are the answer to that question is going to be freedom of religion,” said State Sen. Scott Schneider.

In October 2014, the Supreme Court chose to not make a decision about a case regarding sex-sex marriages in Indiana. Thus, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that a gay marriage ban violates the constitution, stands as the final verdict.

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Some Democrats in the State Senate said they think the new bill would condone companies to discriminate against same-sex couples.

State Sen. Karen Tallian said she thinks conservatives authored the bill as a reactionary measure to challenge Indiana’s new recognition of the legality of same-sex marriages.

Tallian said she thinks the bill could lead to other types of discrimination, like anti-Jewish, anti-women, anti-Catholic and anti-biracial.

“What we’re doing here is to extend the ability for this to turn into a big discrimination bill,” Tallian said.

Supporters of the bill said the intent of the proposed legislation is to protect business owners with strong religious convictions.

“This bill does not legalize discrimination in any way, shape, manor, or form," Schneider said. "It does not pick a winner or a loser and it does not place one faith, one denomination, one belief system over another."

In 1993, President Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, stating the government could not stop religious practices without compelling justifications.

Nineteen other states, including Arizona, Connecticut, Texas, Rhode Island and New Mexico, passed state freedom of religious restoration acts after a 1997 Supreme Court ruling stated the federal law did not apply to state-level court cases. 

Sources: Dayton Daily News, CBS4Indy, WSBT, Cornell University

Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons