About 3,000 people gathered in front of the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis on Saturday to protest the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a new law making it legal for businesses to refuse service to individuals based on personally held religious beliefs. Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill into law ?Thursday.
Opponents to the law claim it’s a form of legalized discrimination and will allow for people to discriminate, particularly against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Indiana. Supporters claim it protects people’s religious freedoms.
Protesters held signs with slogans such as “Homophobia hurts everyone,” “Protecting the LGBTQ community is a compelling interest” and “Liberty for all.”
In a letter to the editor of NUVO Magazine, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry raised concerns about the RFRA’s implications in court and the possibility of the law being used as a defense in criminal proceedings.
“To date, there has been no modification to the proposed bill to exempt criminal offenses from the RFRA,” ?Curry said in his letter. “Under the plain language of the bill, the RFRA could be asserted as a defense to a criminal prosecution. Unless one would think that such scenario is unlikely, it has been reported from other jurisdictions with a comparable ‘religious freedom’ law that criminal defendants have done so.”
Another letter from the Columbia University School of Law that was signed by 30 legal experts Feb. 27 addressed legal concerns about the legislation.
“The state RFRA bills do not, in fact, mirror the language of the federal RFRA,” the letter said. “This difference in language, creating a much higher burden for the state in defending the application of otherwise generally applicable laws in cases where there is an alleged burden on religious liberty rights, is extremely important.”
The letter continued, saying, “It is our expert opinion that the proposals, if adopted, would amount to an over-correction in protecting important religious liberty rights, thereby destroying a well-established harmony struck in Indiana between these important rights and other rights secured under the Indiana Constitution and statutes.”
Gen Con, Indianapolis’ largest annual convention, threatened to move its event out of Indiana once its contract with the city ends in 2020 if Pence signed the bill. Last year, 56,000 people attended the convention, estimating an economic impact on Indianapolis of more than ?$50 million.
Salesforce.com, a software company with investments totaling $40 billion, canceled a company event in Indianapolis after hearing about the law.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee released a statement Thursday announcing that San Francisco city employees are no longer able to travel to Indiana using funds from ?the city.
“San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by the state of Indiana,” Lee said in a statement.
State Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, spoke at the protest, alleging the bill was in response to recent progress made with the legalization of same-sex marriage.
“Our debate is about the belief of our state and about the image of our state,” Delaney said in his speech. “This bill creates a road map, a path to discrimination.”