Angie's List: Indiana's RFRA Fix 'Is Insufficient'
Indiana lawmakers have drafted an update to the state's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act that seeks to explain that the law cannot be used in a discriminatory fashion, but critics of the law say the "fix" doesn't go far enough to protect LGBT Hoosiers.
The first major company to dismiss the changes was Angie's List, the Indiana-based business-review website that has been one of the most vocal critics of the law, reports the The Indianapolis Star.
"Our position is that this 'fix' is insufficient," Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle said in a statement Thursday morning, reported by the Star. "There was no repeal of RFRA and no end to discrimination of homosexuals in Indiana."
The proposed amendment to the existing legislation, announced by state lawmakers Thursday, would explicitly prohibit "service providers from using the law as a legal defense for refusing to provide services, goods, facilities or accommodations," reports the Associated Press. "It also bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or United States military service."
But the prohibition on anti-LGBT discrimination applies only to entities affected by the so-called religious freedom bill, also known as Senate Bill 101. It does not change existing Indiana nondiscrimination law, which does not include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, education, public accommodations, or housing.
"Employers in most of the state of Indiana can fire a person simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning," said Oesterle. "That's just not right and that's the real issue here. Our employees deserve to live, work and travel with open accommodations in any part of the state."
As a result of the "insufficient" changes, Angie's List is standing by its decision to cancel a planned expansion of its headquarters in Indianapolis, according to the Star.
Before the proposed changes could take effect, they must be debated and approved by a legislative conference committee, both chambers of the state legislature, and signed by Gov. Mike Pence, notes the AP.
While Angie's List was first out of the gate to reject the proposed amendment, LGBT advocacy groups quickly followed suit.
"Because of these changes, the harm of the law has been lessened, but there remain significant problems that must be addressed," said the American Civil Liberties Union in a statement Thursday morning. "With these amendments, the RFRA cannot be used as a defense in some kinds of discrimination cases. That’s a major improvement. But it still poses a risk that it can be used to deny rights to others, including in education, access to health care, and other aspects of people’s lives. While this is one piece of the solution, it is incomplete."
Similarly, the Human Rights Campaign stressed the need for broad nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people in Indiana and throughout the country.
"After a historic week where hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers and countless more leaders from Silicon Valley to the Brickyard 400 all spoke up to condemn S.B. 101, one thing is clear: the people of Indiana will never allow their state to be a home to discrimination," said HRC president Chad Griffin in a Thursday statement. "Though this legislation is certainly a step back from the cliff, this fight is not over until every person in Indiana is fully equal under the law. At the federal level and in all 50 states, the time has come in this country for comprehensive legal nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people that cannot be undermined."