WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock bans nonessential travel by city employees to the state of Indiana, Denver Post:
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Tuesday joined the chorus of cities and states that have banned government-funded travel to Indiana over its new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In Denver’s case, the prohibition applies to “non-essential” travel by city employees on official business, which could include trips to conventions in Indianapolis.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R).
It’s not directly pertinent to Colorado politics, but the controversy over the state of Indiana’s passage of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act–which as a result of the state’s lack of discrimination protections for LGBT residents could open the door to lawful discrimination in the name of religious freedom–is worth a thread of its own. Politico’s Adam Lerner has a smart take on the situation today, and the political implications for potential 2016 presidential contender Indiana Gov. Mike Pence:
Indiana’s Republican governor has become the left’s favorite punching bag after passing a Religious Freedom Restoration Act last Thursday at a ceremony featuring a number of conservative religious leaders.
“Many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence warned. The law, he said, ensures that “government action will always be subject to the highest level of scrutiny.”
The bill’s backers say it’s almost identical to any of the 19 other RFRA laws currently on the books, including for the federal government and in deep blue states like Illinois and Connecticut. Critics counter that this bill’s specific language, when coupled with Indiana’s lack of a civil rights law protecting LGBT citizens, makes it a vehicle for discrimination. They say it would allow businesses to deny services to gay and lesbian couples by claiming a religious compulsion.
Although similar laws exist in many states (not in Colorado, of course, where our state’s decade-long Democratic control has made every attempt at a RFRA-type bill a politically toxic nonstarter), it’s the absence of affirmative discrimination protections in Indiana law alongside a law like RFRA that make it a bigger problem there.
But there’s something more important at work in the nationwide backlash against RFRA’s passage in Indiana, which could become a much greater threat to the career aspirations of Gov. Pence than passage of RFRA could ever have helped him. We saw this last when Arizona’s legislature passed a similar bill, and basically the entire American corporate culture went to war to prevent that state’s governor from signing it into law.
It is rapidly becoming no longer cool, in objective, hard economic terms, to discriminate against gay people. What this cultural change represents, regardless of what happens in Indiana in the short term, is a tremendous long-term victory for LGBT rights proponents over the religious right and their political benefactors. And unfortunately for Republicans who would like to end this particular war, which has cost them a generation of voters even as gay marriage bans passed across the nation in the last 15 years, they are still the party of discrimination.
We’ve said it before, and Colorado politics bear it out: either the GOP catches up with the rest of America on this issue, with deeds not words, or it becomes part of their long-term destruction. This is not a partisan attack, it’s advice that Republicans everywhere should take.