See that sign? RFRA with a red oh-hells-no symbol across it. They're popping up on the doors of businesses all around Broad Ripple and elsewhere in Indianapolis.
relatively uncontroversial Federal law from 21 years ago.* They must have figured they couldn't lose!
They figured wrong. They lost, big, and they're dragging the rest of us along. They didn't even understand where the real battlefield was located. Neither do most of the people protesting and holding rallies, pro and con.
Legislators, welcome to 2015, where states are jostling for
business in a down economy and where perception is all it takes to alter
a state's standing in the competition. Indiana is now seen as
backward-looking -- which is always an easy sell to non-Hoosiers anyway.
Forget about your and everyone else's sex life, or religion, or wedlockery or the extent to which they're willing to infuse a business transaction with religion and/or politics. This state needs jobs. J-O-B-S. And what was conceived as, face it, a shout-out to the Republican base is backfiring on that whole "attract new and expanding employers to Indiana" front. The massive Angie's List headquarters expansion project is on hold; they moved here from Ohio, in search of a better business climate, and they can move elsewhere; their business is mostly a massive database and communications support, just as easily run from Missouri or Inner Mongolia as Indianapolis. The NCAA -- headquartered downtown along the Monon Canal -- is making noises about taking their Final Four business elsewhere. And we're only a few days downwind of Indiana's RFRA.
I keep hearing de jure readings from the Right pointing to the "strict scruntiny" requirements and how limited that makes this law; I'm getting plenty of de facto interpretations from the Left about how it's really a wink and a nod to kick LGBT folks outta the pool. Both sides are invested in the issue. Lovely, really, but it doesn't matter. That isn't what's at stake here. You can't put much in the collection plate if you don't have a job -- and you're darned unlikely to put together a big fancy wedding from the unemployment line.
RFRA is a public-relations disaster. In a Rust Belt state short on corporate HQs, competing with the other 49 states and the rest of the world for a shrinking pool of jobs, any edge you have matters -- and so does any edge you lose. All the Legislature had to do was stay shut up and let Hoosiers work things out among themselves, while the state's generally pro-business laws and taxes did the heavy lifting. They couldn't restrain themselves.
Any time one party gets a firm hold on the Executive and Legislative wings of our triple-lobed gummints, foolhardy base-pandering is soon to follow. In Indiana, it was GOP's turn and sure enough, nobody among them looked at the wider issues.
The older I get, the more the phrase "legislative gridlock" appeals to me. It's probably the best we can hope for. We didn't get it this time 'round and look what happened.
Indiana's RFRA is headed for the courts as soon as someone manages to establish standing. The damage has already been done -- done to all Hoosiers, straight, gay, religious, secular, conservative and liberal alike.
ETA: Legal analysis here.
* Relatively uncontroversial: in 1997, application of the Federal RFRA to the state and local governments was challenged and fought all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that this Federal law applied only to the Federales. It's an interesting case.
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