Walt’s Soapbox: The Governor’s Short-term Memory Loss

I want you to think back.. To a long time ago..

Say, ten months back. To March 2015. I know it’s a hard time to remember. It was ages ago..

Well, back in those days, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed Indiana SB 101

Known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, aka RFRA; the law was designed to allow people to claim “sincerely held religious beliefs” and get away with bashing queer folks. Governor Pence signed the bill in a private ceremony, away from the press and public, in the company of the most fundamentalist conservatives in the state. He thought nobody would notice or care.

Within a couple weeks, all hell broke loose.

Governor Pence was faced with backlash from numerous corporate and business interests who swore they would pull their money out of this state. There were thousands of protesters on the lawn of the statehouse, and Pence shot himself right in the ass on national television on the George Stephanopoulos show, where he couldn’t even answer a simple yes or no question as to whether or not RFRA allowed discrimination (spoiler alert: it totally did).

Pence was backed into a corner and he offered a “fix”, signing an amendment to RFRA that basically stripped it of any power to discriminate. The bill was castrated less than a month after it was signed.

Now, you would think after such a backlash, Pence and his conservative cronies would have learned a lesson; times have changed, LGBT folks are organized, we have a voice, and frankly the days are over when you can fuck with us for cheap political points.

Welcome to a new statehouse session and two new bills, SB 35 and SB 100.

SB 35 is Indiana’s variation of the “bathroom bill”. Under this bill, it would be Class A misdemeanor for transgender person to use a public restroom not associated with their birth-assigned gender. Under Indiana state law, Class A Misdemeanors carry penalties of up to $5,000 in fines and/or one year in jail.

Of course, Jim Tomes, the State Senator who introduced the bill, claims that this bill is not targeted at transgender folks. If you believe that, I got some expired lottery tickets to sell you.

SB 100 is a bit more complicated. On paper, it gives us what we want. It adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s civil rights law. But there are a few more sections in the bill that basically render that completely meaningless.

First, there are broad religious exemptions. Any social service (hospitals, adoption agencies, etc.) even remotely connected with a religious group is automatically exempt.

Second, any business related to wedding services (florists, bakers, photographers, etc.) is automatically exempt, as are any small businesses (defined in the law as any business with less than four employees, not counting family members). Furthermore, this bill would automatically render local non-discrimination ordinances, which may be more robustly written, null and void.

And finally, and perhaps more damning, if you file a complaint under this bill that is deemed “frivolous” or “intended to harm the subject of the complaint, you can face penalties of up to $1,000 (you read that right, there’s a portion of this bill that actively discourages people from enforcing it).

For Trans Hoosiers out who wants to file a claim based on this act, be prepared to show the Man your paperwork. The bill would require you to show medical and psychological paperwork for the past year in order to make a claim on gender identity.

Apparently, Pence and his conservative cohorts have mighty short-term memories. When RFRA was signed, shit hit the fan; from business, from the national press, and from the people. You would hope they would learn to just leave us alone.

Instead, as the new statehouse session starts, it looks like they want to double down and hit us harder than they did with RFRA.

Well, fellas.. That’s your call. But remember this, we came out in droves last spring and we’re not afraid to do it again, and again, and again, if necessary.

 Photo credit: http://wpri.com.

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