INRFRA 2.0 – The Good, the Extraneous, and the Hollow

Here is a link to the text of the amendments to the new and improved INRFRA.

I am not going to get into the damage done to the reputation of Indiana or the economic impact of the past week (unless you’re Memories Pizza).

More than anything, the whole ordeal was an exercise of rhetoric elevated above substance all while under a national microscope. Some failed to distinguish that there are RFRA’s that do not infringe on LGBT rights and that most do not when they are well written. Others, it seemed, failed to notice that relgious freedoms are not mutually exclusive of their effect on LGBT rights.

I want to thank those who have helped perpetuate a civil discussion on this blog and have contributed thoughtful comments and questions. Laws are not simple things. But if we don’t wrestle with their language and effects and make conclusions, we risk falling back on the rhetoric of those who understand them even less.

With that said, let’s discuss the so-called fix to INRFRA,

The Good

Indiana has its first law that mentions LGBT rights. Some out there might not consider this a good, but I would say the majority out there thinks this is a good thing. The law also adds the always needed exceptions from applying to criminal and civil rights laws, inlcuding those ordinances and laws that protect public accommodations for LGBT rights.

From our discussions, it seemed clear that the law risked infringing upon these rights in certain circumstances and I think this amendment effectively does what it purports to do, which is what, again, was proposed back in February and voted down.

The Extraneous

While the language added to the amendments is commendable. It really means nothing at all until predicate laws protecting LGBT rights become more prominent in Indiana. Recall that very few cities and counties have such protections and that no statewide LGBT public accommodations protections exist. Remember also that all RFRA’s require predicate government action or laws of some kind. If there are no laws that protect LGBT rights, there is no religious objection to be made (if we continue to use the oft-used context of late).

So, in effect, those counties and cities that had no human rights laws or ordinances protecting LGBT rights (including Walkerton, home of Memories Pizza) can go on denying such public accommodations as they could before all of this started.

The Hollow

In the end, the State of Indiana still has few protections statewide for LGBT rights. While there is likely little to occur for the remainder of this session, it will be interesting to see if the dialogue shifts toward a state human rights law protecting LGBT rights.

If nothing else, the events of the past week have provided a cautionary tale to other states on how not to pass a RFRA law.

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About Matt Anderson

I am civil trial attorney in South Bend, Indiana and have practiced on both sides of insurance and personal injury law in Illinois and Indiana for the better part of ten years. I created this blog as a way for other Indiana civil litigation and trial attorneys to get meaningful updates on cases ad issues that affect their practice. (I'll admit that there is some self-interest involved since it's also a handy way to summarize and file my own research.)

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