Indiana lawmakers are debating laws to make homosexuals, bisexuals, and pansexuals specially protected groups. In his State of the State address, Gov. Mike Pence called on lawmakers to respect religious liberty and diversity of thought on marriage and sexuality, and declared he will oppose any bill that opens the door to people of faith suffering discrimination for being true to their religious beliefs.
Hoosier legislators are debating Senate Bill 100 and Senate Bill 344. The bills are similar, except one also provides that people may insist on being identified by the government and employers as being of a gender other than their biological sex.
Regarding sexual orientation, other states that have laws like the two bills being debated in Indiana are seeing lawsuits punishing people of faith. In Oregon, a government agency ordered Aaron and Melissa Klein to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple when the Kleins declined to make a wedding cake that conveyed a message celebrating same-sex marriage. In Washington state, Barronelle Stutzman faces the loss of her home because she declined to make flower arrangements for a longtime customer who also wanted Stutzman to provide flowers for his same-sex wedding. In Colorado, baker Jack Phillips was ordered by a court to bake same-sex wedding cakes and shut down that part of his business to avoid going to jail for disobeying the court order.
All these cases are currently on appeal. There are other cases also; the list is growing.
Speaking to the Indiana General Assembly Tuesday, Pence showed that he was aware of these cases and demanded that lawmakers not pass any bill that violates the rights of Hoosiers to express or follow their faith and conduct their business affairs consistent with their faith’s beliefs on marriage and sexuality.
“I have studied this issue carefully, and listened respectfully to people across this state. I have met with Hoosiers on every side of this debate,” he began. “Hoosiers do not tolerate discrimination against anybody, and Hoosiers cherish faith and the freedoms enshrined in our Constitution,” he continued.
Hoosiers also cherish faith and the freedom to live out their faith in their daily lives. Whether you worship in a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque, religion brings meaning to the daily lives of millions of Hoosiers. And no one should ever fear persecution because of their deeply held religious beliefs.
But remember, we are a state with a Constitution. Our Constitution not only protects the “right to worship Almighty God, according to the dictates of (our) own consciences,” but it also provides that “No law shall, in any case whatever, control the free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions, nor interfere with the rights of conscience.”
Our [Indiana] Supreme Court has made it clear that our Constitution protects both belief and practice.
As you go about your work on this and other issues, know that I will always give careful consideration to any bill you send me, but legislation must be consistent with the Indiana Constitution.
I will not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or that interferes with the constitutional rights of our citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service, or work.
Our freedoms are too precious to our people, too vital to our well-being, and have been bought at too high a price to do any less.
For months, national LGBT forces have been pushing SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) legislation in Indiana, in an attempt to get a “red” state to adopt special protections as a model for the entire nation. Faith-based leaders have expressed alarm at the proposed legislation, explaining how such laws not only threaten Christian businesses and other organizations owned or operated by people of faith, but also faith-based social services such as Catholic foster care agencies. In Washington, D.C., for example, a Catholic charity had to shut down its foster care program to avoid violating its faith’s teachings.
Ken Klukowski is legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.