The Corner

A Few More Thoughts on Indiana

John McCormack explains how the Indiana legislature intends to “fix” its new religious-freedom law. I would say that it weakens the law, and undermines one of the law’s main purposes. The law as it stands today may offer some protection for the provider of wedding services who does not wish to do anything he believes constitutes an endorsement of same-sex marriage. The law as it would be amended does not appear to offer any protection. In many other contexts, however, the law would offer protection to religious believers burdened by laws and regulations. I would vote against the amendment. But even with the amendment, Indiana public policy will be more protective of religious freedom than it was two weeks ago. That public-policy improvement, though, has happened within a swiftly deteriorating political and cultural environment.

The legislature’s behavior also creates some anomalies. In jurisidictions with laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the legislature is saying, wedding-service providers should not be able to object conscientiously to same-sex weddings. But the legislature has no problem with allowing people outside those jurisdictions to discriminate–indeed, to discriminate in grosser ways. In those places, you can run a chain of bakeries and fire gay people just because you don’t like them. I think we should use market rather than legal pressure against such hypothetical employers. But they deserve protection less than wedding-service providers who object to same-sex marriage do. It is a testament to the irrationality of the current debate that the Indiana legislature feels otherwise.

Ron Brownstein writes that the debate over the Indiana law shows that Republicans are having trouble adjusting to an America that is growing steadily more “culturally tolerant.” Oh, is that what America’s becoming?

Update: A reader emails in response to an earlier post on this topic: “You guys were perfectly happy to use the government to enforce your views when you were in the majority. Live by the coercive power of the state, die by the coercive power of the state.” I’d say, first, that if social conservatives were hypocrites the answer is not to emulate their alleged hypocrisy. Second, though, I don’t think this symmetry is real. A “ban” on same-sex marriage is not like, say, a ban on marijuana: No same-sex couple gets fined or goes to jail for calling themselves married, or having a ceremony marking their commitment, and anyone is free to officiate at such a ceremony. The campaign against same-sex marriage never sought to use coercion that way. It never sought to make it illegal to provide wedding cakes to same-sex couples. Even widening our focus to the culture rather than the law, it never, to my knowledge, sought to get anyone fired from a corporation for favoring same-sex marriage.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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