Conservative politicians in Indiana are currently putting the final preparations to a bill that they hope will allow small businesses to exercise ‘religious liberties’.
Critics of the bill say that it would, in effect, allow business owners to refuse providing services to LGBT people on the grounds of their religious belief.
Social Conservatives in the State have been working on the bill since a federal judge’s decision in June to allow same-sex marriages to go ahead in the State – a decision later backed by the Supreme Court.
One of the most vocal supporters of the planned legislation, which could be introduced at any stage after the Indiana General Assembly reconvenes on 6 January, is State Senator Scott Schneider [pictured].
‘The focus has been on same-sex marriage because that’s the hot topic right now, but it goes far beyond that,’ the Republican said of the bill. ‘It’s important to have some religious freedom and protection.’
Beyond allowing certain business not to cater for same-sex weddings, the Indianapolis Star reports Micah Clark, director of the American Family Association of Indiana, as saying that the legislation would also allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.
Speaking out against the bill, Chris Paulsen, president of Indiana Equality Action, said: ‘We feel any public business should treat everyone equally and should not discriminate against anyone … We would obviously vigorously oppose anything that allowed discrimination against the LGBT community.’
Others believe that there is no need for such a bill.
‘We are not being prevented from exercising our faith, nor are we being forced to do something we don’t want to do,’ said State Rep. Ed DeLaney (an Indianapolis Democrat). ‘It’s kind of sad, really.’
The fate of any proposed legislation is difficult to predict. Although similar proposed legislation in other States has often been vetoed or thrown out, legislation offering some degree of religious exemption has been accepted in Michigan and Georgia.
The fact that the Indiana General Assembly currently has a high number of conservative Republicans would suggest that the bill might have many supporters.