Thursday, April 2, 2015

UPDATE: Indiana Takes At Least Tentative One Step -- Away From The "Lunacy Precipice"

UPDATED 04.04.15 @ 9:30 AM EDT | I return to this topic to note how implausible it is, to me, that people of good conscience -- truly devout religious people -- if they were in fact the animating force behind these weaponized attempts to change existing law in Indiana and Arkansas -- would come up with this particular scheme.

Most people of good conscience know that proving what lurks in one's heart is a difficult endeavor. Most people of good conscience know, or know of, a story in which someone was likely treated unfairly (denied a job, promotion, seat at an elite institution, or other right or privilege of citizenship), and in many of these cases, there was a strong sense (unprovable, of course) that the denial was based on race, gender or other immutable characteristic. But proving what was in the actor's heart -- well that is nearly impossible.

And so, it is baffling to me -- given that people of good conscience would not want anyone to be mistreated in this way -- that they would ask for and in fact draft, a series of changes to a 1998-era federal law -- to tip the balance in favor of the discriminatory actors. I do understand that it was a response to the fact that the Supremes struck Indiana's attempt to amend its state constitution to prohibit gay marriage. That is a fact now beyond reasonable dispute. So, were these people acting in good faith, they might have appreciated how hard they were likely making it for a mixed race husband and wife, and their children to be vindicated, if (for example) the proprietor of a lunch-counter said his religion prohibited race mixing. And there are those out there. Yet these drafters left out any savings clause (akin to the one now being passed into Indiana law, as an amendment) that made clear that denials at any business establishment -- on race or ethnicity or gender or LGBT status -- would be strictly prohibited by law (as they have been for several decades, as to race, gender and religion, at least).

And so, Occam's razor would suggest that there was only one goal, here -- and that goal was to shift the burden of proof away from the person engaging in what would otherwise be unlawful conduct (invidious discrimination in public accommodations), and place that burden on the person whose status (LGBT) brought the invidious discrimination to the harsh light of 21st Century day. That is a very reasonable deduction, based on all that is now known. I would have expected better from supposedly religious people. And I would hope that Good Friday reminded them of some of this, yesterday. [END UPDATED PORTION.]

Indiana's law -- adopted just last Thursday -- is today undergoing significant amendments -- in the sausage-making that is the legislative process -- as we type this.

That's good -- but is still well short of the mark. The offered "fix" covers only businesses -- not human beings. So the fix will still leave individuals and small family run companies free to refuse service to LGBT paying customers, if these latter day luddites refusenik(s) (Ed. Note: Sorry -- that insults the real refuseniks by association) offer a religious reason for doing so. Again, Indiana is a state without statewide fourteenth amendment-, and federal EEO-"style" acknowledgements (i.e., a firmly rooted protective scheme) for LGBT Hoosiers. The same is true of Arkansas, but it too is moving in the right direction, now -- as I noted yesterday. Here is just a bit from CNN:

. . . .The changes would prohibit businesses from using [last week's enacted Indiana version of RFRA] as a defense in court for refusing "to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing" to any customers based on "race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service." . . .

As CNN notes, though, the Indiana government machinery is almost certain to face debate on a full anti-discrimination and equal treatment measure, very shortly. So, sometimes -- "when she pushes too hard, she gets exactly the opposite of what it was she wanted, in the first place. . . ." it has been ever thus.

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