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Op-ed: Indiana's 'Turn Away Gays' Bill Is a Segregation-Era Throwback

Op-ed: Indiana's 'Turn Away Gays' Bill Is a Segregation-Era Throwback


A century ago, politicians claimed that 'religious freedom' required legal racial segregation. Today, they're making the same claim against LGBTs.

With Indiana Governor Mike Pence's signature on Senate Bill 101 Thursday -- formally called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but better known as the "Turn Away The Gays" bill -- more Hoosiers than ever will soon have an opportunity to experience religiously justified, legally protected discrimination first-hand. Fun!

It's a pretty convenient way to exempt yourself from any law you don't like; just claim that God wants you to refuse service to LGBT people, and there's nothing the government can do about it. It's not exactly a new tactic. A hundred years ago, it was perfectly acceptable for judges and politicians to declare that racial segregation was part of a divine plan. "The good Lord was the original segregationist," wrote former Mississippi governor Theodore Bilbo during the days of Jim Crow.

A century later, Oklahoma senator James Lankford and Virginia congressman Randy Forbes wrote an outlandish op-ed last week claiming that if Chipotle gets to pick its meat supplier, they get to discriminate against gays. That's ludicrous, of course, and I disassemble their nonsensical comparison in this video:

The problem with granting a blanket exemption in the name of "religious freedom" is that it assumes that all religious actions are morally sound, simply by virtue of being religious. But as our history has taught us, religion can be used to justify all manners of human suffering.

But it seems Indiana has forgotten history, and is now bound to repeat it.

MATT BAUME is an Advocate contributing writer covering marriage equality.

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