Indiana's New 'Religious Freedom Law' Is An Attack On Me And My Rights

Mike Pence

Today, I went to work in an office, got a haircut from a local salon and picked up dinner from a Chinese restaurant.

All of these are seemingly mundane events we all take for granted, we don't think much of them because they are generally just routine parts of our daily lives.

Unfortunately, these everyday tasks are now something LGBT citizens in Indiana must fear due to a new and narrow-minded law that's been passed.

Earlier this week, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a law that says the state cannot "substantially burden" another person's exercise of religion unless it is furthering a "compelling government interest."

Translation: It's a law that green-lights discrimination against LGBT individuals on religious grounds.

While Pence describes this legislation as a "proud Indiana step forward," many throughout the nation seem to think otherwise. Mayors of Seattle and San Francisco have already gone as far as banning city business travel to Indiana.

The entire state of Connecticut has joined in the looming boycott of Indiana by prohibiting any state-funded travel to the Hoosier State.

Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy tweeted:

“When new laws turn back the clock on progress, we can’t sit idly by. We are sending a message that discrimination won’t be tolerated. –DM.”

To further prove how much of a social issue this has become, several corporations are standing up to the law's injustice. Apple's Chief Executive Tim Cook, an openly gay man, stated:

I'm standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has canceled all employee travel to the state as well.

Pence believes that this law will further "empower individuals" in their expression of their religion.

His statement couldn't be any further from the truth.

This law doesn't empower religion; it exploits religion. Somehow, bigots have twisted the word "religion" into some kind of politically slang term for covert discrimination. Religious freedom is not the real focus here. What's most upsetting is how religion is being used as a means for inequality.

Under RFRA, businesses are not required to provide services to anyone who "violates their religious freedom." What this means is an LGBT individual can be denied food, jobs, transportation, insurance, banking, gas and clothing. And all storeowners have to do is wave their magic "religious freedom" wands to make it all happen.

Suddenly, a normal day-in-the-life takes on a whole new perspective. Indiana's governor has legalized hate and justified discrimination.

All religions are subject to the interpretation of the individual. Considering a single religion can be interpreted in so many different ways, it's difficult to truly predict how damaging this law could become.

How does one distinguish between a violation of religious freedom and an act of discrimination? You really can't, which makes this law all the more dangerous for the LGBT community.

Religion is not, and should not, be used as a cover-up for privileged beliefs.

Religion is not, and should not, be used as vehicle to shun diversity and acceptance.

Rather than foster the coexistence of various religions and backgrounds, this new law encourages storeowners to push away anyone who doesn't hold their same values or beliefs.

What's painful about this controversy is that it pits religious freedom against LGBT equality. The two topics are being pushed further apart as an either-or we must choose.

I refuse to accept one must be sacrificed for the other. Rather, I believe it's possible to live in a United States where citizens can celebrate inclusiveness of all religions, all races, all gender identities and all sexual orientations. And that can only happen if we become more mindful of how our actions affect one another.

While the law may be passed for now, the discussion it has created cannot be ignored and will not be forgotten. We've realized the importance of ensuring that laws are inclusive by protecting the rights and liberties of all citizens.

If there's anything we've learned from this debate, it's that one person's freedom is no greater than another's.