Our View: Bills are a slippery slope

There’s been a lot of controversy regarding a pair of bills passed in Indiana and Alabama, known as so-called “religious freedom restoration acts.”

On the surface, a bill that alleges it will protect religious freedom is something that should be supported, despite the fact freedom of religion is one of the rights protected in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. However, the actual content of the bills, which essentially give business owners the right to discriminate against gay and transgender people based on religious grounds, have spurred condemnation from national and international corporations such as Apple, Angie’s List and Wal-Mart; as well as celebrities, sports organizations and the media. 

Readers of the Indianapolis Star were treated to a front-page editorial on Tuesday morning, utilizing a massive black box with the words “Fix this now” reading prominently above the fold. Editorials, such as this column you’re reading, are often limited to a newspaper’s Opinion Section. While it isn’t unheard of for a publication to print editorials on their front pages, it’s a very rare practice often reserved for critical or extraordinary circumstances. It’s not something that’s done lightly.

This kind of pushback isn’t limited to only the liberal segment of the spectrum that is unhappy with the law. The bill so far has had economic impacts on the state, at least in Angie’s List’s case, as the company canceled plans to expand into the state. The $40 million expansion would have provided 1,000 jobs and additional revenue to Indiana.

It’s surprising that this discussion is happening now, in 2015. Debate on if discrimination based on an attribute no one has control over occurred more than 50 years ago when the ideas of “separate but equal” and Jim Crow were found to be unconstitutional. The language within these bills presents a slippery slope that can lead to widespread discrimination, not just against those identifying as LGBT. Such laws could lead to gender-based discrimination, as someone could deny services to a woman as a result of their religious views.

In Wyoming, the legislature failed to pass an anti-discrimination bill aimed at protecting LGBT residents within the state, despite widespread support from many organizations and industries in the state. While not on the level of severity at Indiana and Alabama, Wyoming definitely deserves some criticism in regards to the legislature’s failure. At some point, Wyoming, as well as Indiana and Alabama, are going have to accept the notion of equality for everyone. 


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