Thousands of opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, gathered on the lawn of the Indiana State House to rally against that legislation, March 28, 2015.
Photo by Doug McSchooler/AP

The real-world implications of right-to-discriminate laws

In uncertain times, it’s good to know there are some things we can count on to be true – things such as the unreliability of Bill Kristol’s predictions.
 
Over the weekend, for example, the Weekly Standard editor predicted that the media would “flood Indiana looking for instances of wanton discrimination against gays.” Kristol was confident, however, that news organizations “won’t find any.”
 
A couple of days later, an Indiana business owner said he’s already begun discriminating against gay customers, though it was tough to corroborate the claims – the man wouldn’t provide any pertinent details about his business. An ABC affiliate in Indiana, however, reported on a more concrete example this morning.
A small-town pizza shop is saying they agree with Governor Pence and the signing of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
 
The O’Connor family, who owns Memories Pizza, says they have a right to believe in their religion and protect those ideals.
 
“If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” says Crystal O’Connor of Memories Pizza.
The pizza shop’s owners said they wouldn’t deny service to gay customers, but if asked, they would refuse to cater a wedding with their pizzas. (I’ll leave it to you to wonder just how many gay weddings would want to cater their reception with pizzas.)
 
The store’s owners told WBND in Indiana that Memories Pizza is “a Christian establishment,” which to them means applying certain religious beliefs to their business. “We’re not discriminating against anyone,” O’Connor said, explaining she simply doesn’t want to provide some services to gay customers that she would provide to straight customers.
 
This is the sort of policy opponents of the Indiana policy, who’ve turned out in droves to protest the right-to-discriminate statute, have warned against.
 
Of course, the point isn’t to poke fun at Kristol for another failed prediction, or even some small business owner who may not fully appreciate what “discrimination” means. In fact, it’s not just about businesses that cater to weddings.
 
As Irin Carmon explained today, there’s a much larger issue at stake in this debate.
In the recent controversy over broadened religious exemptions in laws passed by Indiana and Arkansas, we’ve heard a lot about weddings between same-sex couples – the cake not baked, the flowers not provided. But judging from the vast scope of religious exemption claims that have already been made across the country, this does not begin and end with weddings, or with LGBT people.
 
Such laws have potentially sweeping implications for medical care, housing and employment discrimination, and for any group that could find itself on the wrong side of a religious belief. […]
 
Can a landlord deny an apartment to a single mother because of religious disapproval of non-marital sex? Can an employer cite his or her religious belief for firing an employee for getting pregnant or for the employee using in-vitro fertilization? Or for denying that employee benefits?
This isn’t, in other words, just about Memories Pizza. Irin’s piece is worth your time.
 

Civil Rights, Discrimination, Gay Rights and Indiana

The real-world implications of right-to-discriminate laws