While some national Republicans are stepping away from anti-gay discrimination, Indiana Republicans led by Gov. Mike Pence have gone the other way.
Under GOP Chairman Jim Brulte, who seeks to expand his party’s rapidly shrinking base, California Republicans last month voted to charter Log Cabin Republicans, in a sign that Republicans here are serious about inclusion.
Showing more positive momentum, several national Republicans signed a “friend of the court brief” to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting same-sex marriage. Signatories included seven GOP congressmen; Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican in a blue state; billionaire David Koch; former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman; and six former GOP governors.
So what is it with Pence and Indiana’s Republican supermajority in the Legislature? They approved Senate Bill 101, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which brought the wrath of right-thinking Americans on the Hoosier State.
The law would codify discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people by allowing businesses to refuse service to people who fall into conflict with owners’ religious beliefs.
While 19 other states have similar laws, those states expressly protect against discrimination against the LGBT community. In Indiana, there is no such protection.
During a stumbling appearance Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week With George Stephanopolous,” Pence said that the issue wasn’t discrimination, but government interference. Pence never said he did or did not support anti-gay discrimination, and said “tolerance is a two-way street.”
Pence’s performance Sunday was so lacking in clarity that Indiana’s legislative leaders said Monday they would look to clarify the law.
Major corporations including Yelp, Apple, and Angie’s List, as well as the NBA and the NCAA, headquartered in Indianapolis and host of the Final Four tournament this upcoming weekend, have called for the law to be repealed.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray have called for city-funded travel to Indiana to be halted until the law is changed, and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said a clear anti-discrimination clause should be added to the law.
Pence and the legislators who supported SB 101 are tarring other more thoughtful Republicans. Pence, who is mulling a presidential bid, needs to change the law, fast. Pandering to bigots should not be the path to the GOP nomination. As Indiana’s state song says, his hopes may now be washed up “on the banks of the Wabash, far away.”