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Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Littwin: Aw-shucks, America, Indiana never even heard of discrimination

Littwin: Aw-shucks, America, Indiana never even heard of discrimination

In case anyone is still confused, the world has officially changed, including the part that belongs to Indiana.

In today’s world, when you pass a so-called “religious freedom” law that can readily be interpreted as the freedom to use religious beliefs to discriminate against the LGBT community, everything turns upside down.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a would-be Republican presidential candidate, is learning that the hard way. You’d have thought he would have caught on around the time that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a similar law, but apparently not. She knew boycotts were coming. Indiana Republican leaders said they had no idea.

It’s fair to say this law wouldn’t have been controversial 10 years ago. Or maybe even five years ago. For all I know, it may not be controversial today in Arkansas, where a similar law is being passed. After all, there are laws like this one — if not exactly like this one — in states around the country. There’s a federal religious freedom (RFRA) law — but one that passed in a different time, twenty-some years ago, with liberal and conservative votes and which was instigated by a case about Native Americans being fired for using peyote. No one mentioned whether they were gay or straight.

Indiana’s governor knows what’s going on, but he can’t admit he knows what’s going on. So he appears on TV with George Stephanopoulos and pulls a Cory Gardner.

That was then. And now?

Now, Indiana’s new law comes the year after a court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in Indiana. No one can honestly question the timing.

Now, after Pence signed the bill into law in a private ceremony, nine leaders of major Indiana corporations send a letter to the governor and legislative leaders demanding a change; Apple president Tim Cook blasts the law as discriminatory; rock groups and political leaders announce boycotts; leaders of the Indiana state legislature call a news conference to say they need to address the fact that a bill they say was meant to be inclusive now seems exclusive; the NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis and is holding the Final Four there this weekend, says it might be forced to leave unless the law is changed; the state’s flagship newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, gives up its front page to an editorial headlined, in go-to-war type, “FIX THIS NOW.”

The Star’s editorial says the law threatens Indiana’s reputation and its economic well-being — and that it must be changed to prohibit discrimination “on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Everyone seems to get it except Pence, who actually probably does get it, but can’t figure out what to do about it.

What he did say was that he had no plans to push an anti-gay-discrimination law. The next day, though, he’s writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal saying he “abhors discrimination.” He said if a restaurant discriminated against gays, he wouldn’t eat there. What he didn’t say is that it should be illegal for the restaurant to discriminate.

Why can’t he make that jump?

You know why. Ask Jeb Bush, who knows that he’s having problems winning over the conservative vote, and so he goes on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show to align himself with Pence, saying: “This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to have, to be able to be people of conscience. I just think, once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.”

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have also backed Pence. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, tweeted that it was “sad this new Indiana law could happen in America today.”

We can all remember when same-sex marriage was very much a wedge issue. The thing is, it still is a wedge issue — but one that points in the complete opposite direction. It’s hard to put a date on when this issue changed, but what we know is that it has changed dramatically, and when bakers and florists cite religious reasons for refusing service to LGBT customers, it becomes a headline story about discrimination.

Pence has tried to blame the media for the controversy, but the media, of course, rarely pay much attention to Indiana unless they’re playing the Final Four there, as they are this weekend. He wants to blame Obamacare, because which Republican doesn’t want to blame Obamacare? He notes that Barack Obama voted for a religious freedom bill when he was in the Illinois state legislature, but forgets to mention that it was a very different bill, passed in a very different political atmosphere.

So what does Pence do? He defends the law, sort of.

He goes on This Week with George Stephanopoulos and pulls a Cory Gardner. Stephanopoulos asks him six times whether the law allows people to discriminate against gays. And six times Pence dodges the direct question, refusing to say.

Because, of course, there’s no good way for him to answer, which is at the root of his problem.

If Pence answers yes, he’s saying it really was all about the right to discriminate. If he answers no, he’s saying there was no reason to pass the law to begin with.

[Photo via the National Monitor.]

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About the Author

Mike Littwin

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
mlittwin@coloradoindependent.com | Twitter @mike_littwin

1 Comment

  1. Don Lopez on said:

    Mr. Littwin is a long time advocate of same-sex marriage and has been very vocal in defending that belief against even the slightest challenge, real or imagined. Usually the latter.

    Then something changed.

    Because when ISIS threw a man suspected of being gay off a roof then stoned him to death when the fall failed to kill him Mr. Littwin responded with absolute, complete, total, deafening, Simon and Garfunkel silence.

    Had Mr. Littwin’s views evolved?

    Evidently not, judging by the hysteria he has voiced over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Does Mr. Littwin believe the RFRA more newsworthy than ISIS barbarism which was committed solely on the basis of sexual orientation?

    He casually brushes aside the fact that there is a very similar federal RFRA because, as Mr. Littwin puts it, that law was “passed in a different time”. Here’s what “passed in a different time” really means: He is trying to obscure the fact that the federal RFRA was passed by a Democrat-controlled Congress and signed into law by a Democrat president, Bill Clinton.

    But that’s not all Mr. Littwin attempts to gloss over. As reported by the Washington Times when President Clinton signed the bill he said:

    “We all have a shared desire here to protect perhaps the most precious of all American liberties — religious freedom. Usually the signing of legislation by a president is a ministerial act, often a quiet ending to a turbulent legislative process. Today this event assumes a more majestic quality because of our ability together to affirm the historic role that people of faith have played in the history of this country, and the constitutional protections those who profess and express their faith have always demanded and cherished. The free exercise of religion has been called the first freedom, that which originally sparked the development of the full range of the Bill of Rights.”

    And, as pointed out by the National Review:

    “Critics say that Indiana’s RFRA amounts to a license to discriminate; it isn’t — far from being a blanket grant of immunity, it simply allows religious liberties to be raised as a defense in lawsuits. That religious liberties may be offered as a defense is not a guarantee that this defense will be accepted by a court.”

    Religious Freedom Restoration Acts are far more common than Mr. Littwin would have readers believe (he mentions only Arkansas) but according to the American Civil Liberties Union these states already have RFRAs:

    Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia.

    While Mr. Littwin dutifully reports “Apple president Tim Cook blasts the law as discriminatory” he dutifully neglects to report (accidentally I’m sure) that Apple (per their own website) does business in four countries that according to the Washington Post punish homosexuality with death. The lesson to be learned here, boys and girls, is simply this: Mr. Littwin should never be mistaken for a serious journalist. George Will he ain’t.

    And I have to wonder, too, if Mr. Littwin believes the ongoing diplomatic talks with Iran should be discontinued because—again, according to the Washington Post—in Iran “homosexual intercourse between men can be punished by death, and men can be flogged for lesser acts such as kissing. Women may be flogged.”

    Hell will freeze over before Mr. Littwin responses to that question.

    Rich Lowry sums up this RFRA posturing best:

    “Yes, there is intolerance afoot in the debate over Indiana, but it’s not on the part of Indianans.”

    “I marched with many people back in those days and I have reached out to some of my friends who marched with me, and all of them are shocked,” Rev. William Owens of the Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP) told Breitbart News. “They never thought they would see this day that gay rights would be equated with civil rights. Not one agreed with this comparison.

    President Obama is a disgrace to the black community,” Owens said. “He is rewriting history. We didn’t suffer and die for gay marriage.”

    “At the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family.”
    Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Assistant Secretary of Labor, March, 1965

    “It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”
    President Obama redefining “randomly”

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Folds of Honor Foundation
    Wounded Warrior Project
    Memorial Day – May 25, 2015

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