Last week, Indiana has passed a religious freedom law and the animated protests against it just go to show how much has America come to support the same-sex marriage.
The aforementioned law is an adapted version of the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) passed by then-President Clinton in 1993. The protections provided by this law are included in the constitution of 30 states, and they are basically designed to protect religious freedom against government action in situations that come against personal convictions.
The distinctions present in Indiana’s new law might not even justify the outrage that has sparked across the nation. Lawmakers have altered the federal version in order to extend religious freedom for corporations, not just individuals; it also allows claims of having one’s religious freedom infringed even without the involvement of the government.
An entire week of protests against Indiana’s legislature and constant criticism has left a mark on Governor Mike Pence, who gave an announcement on Tuesday. He said he would do his best to encourage the state’s committee to pass additional legislation stating very clearly that the new law does not offer businesses the possibility of denying services to anyone.
What protestors are trying to achieve here is prohibiting individuals or corporations from using legal religious grounds as a defense for not offering services to same-sex couples. What Gov. Pence actually said is that an additional legislation would exempt the state from looking like it condones or authorizes discriminatory action through local law.
On the other hand, isn’t it unfair toward religious people that they do not have legal grounds for seeking recourse in court? A religious belief defense for refusing services comes against the agenda of those who want total equality, without exception – and that’s how protests sparked.
When Clinton passed the federal law, he explained that freedom of religion is “perhaps the most precious of all American liberties.” Activists who thought that all Jews, Christians, or Muslims, who believe marriage is the sacred union of man and woman in the eyes of God, would just surrender to their attempts of refreshing the definition, have had another thing coming at them.
The current legal situation is not trying to endorse any side in particular, or provide legal environment for discrimination of any kind. It is merely an attempt to add some tiny space for religious people who feel their beliefs are being attacked, so they can have some room for compassionate discussions.
The incident that sparked these legal and social events was a bakery’s refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage. Activists have made it clear that one of their goal is to remove all shadow of discrimination that RFRA laws cast. But maybe we should realize that discrimination is a two-way street and we should give the same tolerance we expect to receive, because you can’t ask equality for sexual orientation and deny it for religious belief.
Image Source: New York Times
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