Posted on

Hoosiers deserve spotlight but not for SEA 101

My Opinion
Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Editor

Our government does many things to try to protect us, resulting in numerous laws, such as speed limits, and federal and state acts, often creating this or that agency to oversee their purpose.
Technology has made it easier to enforce speed limits; however, that’s not to say that the courts never throw out speeding tickets.
But other protections are more difficult to prove that a violation has occurred.
Take for example the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is responsible for ensuring that those seeking employment aren’t discriminated against because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability or genetic information.
It looks good on paper but we all know that discrimination happens; ‘under qualified,’ ‘over qualified’ and other phrases are an employer’s way out of hiring an unwanted person. For the unhired applicant, it’s often not worth the hassle of trying to prove discrimination.
Indiana was placed under the microscope Thursday when Gov. Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Senate Enrolled Act 101), slated to go into effect July 1. Since then, news broadcasts, as well as social media sites, have been a-buzz about the new law, with most commenters in a frenzy saying how this will make it possible for business owners to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
I would wager that the majority of those drawing that conclusion have not read Senate Enrolled Act 101.
As for those who have taken the time to read it, unless they are an attorney, they still may not understand exactly what it says or means. However, one thing is certain, nowhere does it say that anyone, especially with regard to sexual orientation, may be discriminated against for any reason.
Indiana is my birthplace, my only home. I have found that most of my fellow residents share similar values and goals; we are law-abiding citizens who want to provide the best life possible for our families.
However, we Hoosiers are not generally thought of as pacesetters. Heck, you wouldn’t know it by the attention our state has received the past several days, but Indiana wasn’t the first state to sign into law some variation of a religious freedom act. We are 31st; that means more than half of this country’s other states beat us to the punch.
In fact, the federal government came up with it in 1993, under then-President Bill Clinton. However, it was ruled four years later that the federal law didn’t apply to states so they began enacting their own.
Does Indiana need such a law? Perhaps not, but in today’s sue-happy world, probably yes. I, for one, would prefer to see the judicial system stop allowing frivolous lawsuits (remember the McDonald’s customer who sued the Golden Arches company for coffee that was hot?) but, hey, it’s a free country so, therefore, anyone can sue whomever they want for any reason under the sun. Doesn’t mean they will win in a court of law but you can bet someone will be making a profit in the process.
That’s where the RFRA could have an unfortunate outcome for Hoosiers, on business owners, and, consequently, their employees’ bank accounts as organizations have threatened to boycott the state because it, in their view, can and might discriminate against gays and lesbians. Those that host events in Indiana, thus boosting our economy, would move them elsewhere. But if the religious freedom law is the real reason for relocating, that only leaves such groups 19 states to consider.
The governor yesterday (Tuesday) gave lawmakers until the end of the week to rework SEA 101 to clarify that it doesn’t allow business owners to discriminate in providing services. Democrat lawmakers want it repealed in hopes of undoing damage to Indiana’s reputation.
I hope our lawmakers ‘ those on both sides of the aisles ‘ can agree on wording that will protect all citizens from discrimination while also allowing business owners to run their company as they see fit. (The customers will ultimately decide who stays in business.) Indiana has more important things to be in the world spotlight for instead of as a state that many believe is intolerant of any classification of people.