Six days ago, on March 26, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed his state’s new “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” into law, and he couldn’t have been more pleased.
“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” the governor said in a statement released shortly after he signed Senate Bill 101.
Three days ago, on March 29, Pence agreed the law may need to be changed.
Gov. Mike Pence, scorched by a fast-spreading political firestorm, told The Star on Saturday that he will support the introduction of legislation to “clarify” that Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Two days ago, on March 30, Pence reversed course, saying the law would not be changed.
“Look, we’re not going to change the law, OK?”
One day ago, on March 31, Pence held a press conference to say the law must be fixed.
“Let me say I believe this is a clarification, but it’s also a fix…. We will fix this and we will move forward.”
And then yesterday afternoon, still on March 31, Pence told Fox News’ Sean Hannity the law doesn’t need to be fixed.
“I stand by this law. The law doesn’t need to be fixed.”
So, which is it?
Ove the course of just six days, Pence has endorsed the law, then endorsed changing the law, then opposed changing the law, then re-endorsed changing the law, only to then oppose changes again.
At this point, I’m a little confused about the Republican governor’s true intentions. Or more to the point, I suspect the governor himself is a little confused about his own intentions.
Looking ahead, Pence vowed yesterday that policymakers would act this week, and it’s a process well worth watching. If the governor’s disjointed rhetoric is any indication, we’re likely to see Indiana Republicans pursue superficial changes that leave the integrity of the right-to-discriminate law intact.
In other words, given Pence’s boast to Hannity last night that the law “doesn’t need to be fixed,” just hours after he told the nation the opposite, the governor may hope to slap a coat of legislative paint on SB101 and declare victory.
Indeed, if you watched Pence’s press conference closely yesterday, there was one word he used 12 times: “perception.” At one point, the governor said, “[T]his is a perception problem.” Later the governor added that he’s determined “to correct the perception that’s taken hold.”
It seems Pence is convinced that there is no real problem with his anti-gay measure; there’s only the appearance of a problem. We should expect, then, a resolution that doesn’t fix the problem, so much as it gives the appearance of fixing the problem.