Micah J. Schwartzman

Indiana’s New Law Allows Discrimination. That Was the Point

CO-AUTHORS Nelson Tebbe and Robert Tuttle


In the latest controversy over religious liberty and gay rights, last week Indiana became the 20th state to enact a Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Many have denounced the law for inviting discrimination against gays and lesbians, and a number of organizations have threatened to move events out of Indiana or to limit their business in the state. 

In signing the bill, however, Gov. Mike Pence dismissed this criticism. He declared that the law “is not about discrimination.” In an interview this weekend on ABC’s This Week, he added that the purpose of the law was to bolster First Amendment rights, not to discriminate. But this response indicates that the governor has either misunderstood or misrepresented a crucial aspect of the law he’s just signed.  

Defending his state’s RFRA last week, Gov. Pence said: “If I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it. In fact, it does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved.” In other words, the governor implied, discrimination by a private individual or company against another private individual would not even implicate the new law. But that is simply false.



Micah J. Schwartzman, Nelson Tebbe & Robert Tuttle, Indiana’s New Law Allows Discrimination. That Was the Point, Slate (March 30, 2015).

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