Every human must eat, but according to Mike Pence — the governor of Indiana — not every person has the right to eat at a restaurant. In an incredibly discriminatory move, Pence signed into law today a bill that allows businesses — including restaurants, coffee shops, and bars — to turn away customers that are gay, lesbian, and transgender. According to CNN, Pence attempted to justify the move by citing "religious freedom": "The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action." How having paying LGBT customers attacks a business owners' freedom of religion is not explained.
Pence declared in an interview with WIBC, an Indianapolis radio station, that this law was one that "Indiana should have enacted many years ago." He added that the new freedom of religion law is only controversial "because of the way some in the media have reported this," not because it opens a very scary Pandora's box.
Unfortunately, Pence isn't the first politician to use twisted logic to defend "freedom of religion." Earlier this month in an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, Republican Senator James Lankford and Representative Randy Forbes argued that because Chipotle is allowed to remove carnitas from its menu when suppliers don't meet its standards for animal welfare, businesses should be allowed to make decisions — including who they can turn away — based on their religious standards.
Food is universal, not something with gender or sexuality, so it makes no difference who is eating it. Regardless, that hasn't stopped others from discriminating against members of the LGBT community. Last year, a server at a Texas restaurant told a gay couple that the establishment doesn't "serve fags" and asked them to not return. A bar in Oklahoma was pummeled with fake negative Yelp reviews after its owner told a news channel that he doesn't really "want gays around."
So far, Pence's decision in Indiana has garnered a lot of backlash in the media and over social media. Many companies have come out against the decision, adding that they will reduce their business in Indiana because of it. The NCAA — which is slated to hold its Final Four tournament in Indianapolis in two weeks — released a statement saying it is considering moving future events outside of Indiana. This would be a huge hit to local businesses, especially the restaurants that feed tourists in town for the games.
Indiana's new "religious freedom" law is a big step backwards for civil rights http://t.co/aUkSWuwBFw— Henry Decker (@HenryADecker) March 26, 2015