Late last week, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, surrounded by some of his state’s most hate-filled homophobes, signed into law a piece of legislation called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, giving those who claim religion conviction the right to withhold goods and services from individuals they find, for whatever reason, to be morally repugnant.
At the signing of the bill, Pence said, “The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.” And, with the signing of this bill, the people of Indiana were once again safe. Pence had stood up for persecuted Christians across Indiana and ensured that they would no longer have to compromise their deeply held religious beliefs by having to do things like make sandwiches for people who look as though they could possibly enjoy non-heterosexual intercourse.
The executive director of Indiana-based Advance America, who was with the Governor for the bill signing ceremony, explained on his website why this legislation was so critically important. “Christian businesses and individuals deserve protection from those who support homosexual marriages and those who support government recognition and approval of gender identity (men who dress as women),” he wrote. So, clearly this wasn’t just about bakers not wanting to bake wedding cakes for gay couples. This was about “protecting” god-fearing Christian bigots from “men who dress like women,” among other things.
Thankfully, the tyranny of the homosexuals, and those with “gender identities,” whatever that means, ended last week, when Governor Spence provided much needed protection for the terrified Christian majority of Indiana, so that they would no longer have to confront the likes of a man in a dress, which would surely drain them of all religious conviction that they might have.
It was a proud day for Indiana. Nineteen other states had passed acts in the name of “religious freedom,” but theirs was the most aggressively anti-gay, and people were ecstatic.
But then something odd happened. Pence, started walking back from this great legislative accomplishment of his, which, just days ago, he’d referred to as a victory for “religious liberty.” This morning, he called for the legislation to be “clarified,” saying that the intention of the act, contrary to the quotes given by everyone at the signing ceremony, was never to enable discrimination. “I don’t support discrimination against anyone,” said Pence to the press.
Why the sudden change of tune? Why is it that this man, who, just days ago, felt it necessary to “empower” the good Christian people of Indiana to defend their “religious liberty,” now doesn’t seem to care that they’re at risk? Did God’s views on homosexuality change? Did the Christians of Indiana suddenly become strong enough to serve a sandwich to a gay person without being recruited into homosexuality? Or did Pence just decide that he hates God?
The truth… and I hate to break this to you, my readers in Indiana… is that Pence never really cared about God in the first place. What he cared about were votes. Pence, I’m fairly certain, never gave a fuck about those poor persecuted bigots who were begging him for legislation that would protect them from cake-loving homosexuals. He knew how to read a poll, though, and he knew that, in a solidly Republican, predominantly Christian state like Indiana, he’d be better off playing along. What he wasn’t apparently counting on, though, was the immediate and overwhelming backlash from America’s gay corporate mafia, led by Apple CEO Tim Cook.
It would seem that, when push came to shove, the votes of a few loud, bigoted florists don’t really amount to much when compared to the prospect of losing the NCAA basketball playoffs and $40 million corporate expansion projects. So, today, Pence isn’t talking about “religious liberty,” but declaring that he abhors discrimination. “I don’t support discrimination against gays and lesbians or anyone else,” Pence said today. “I abhor discrimination.”
And this, to me, is twice as disgusting as straight-up bigotry. I could accept it if Pence believed what he’d been saying. It would piss me off, but I could accept it if I thought he really cared about wanting to “empower” Christians to turn away gays from their places of business. I could accept it if he really felt that this was what God wanted, and stood by it. What I can’t accept, though, is someone who says that it’s absolutely imperative one one, and then, the very next… once it’s explained to him that no one will do business in his state any longer… says that’s not what he meant. And that’s why I hope the religious right that he’s courted these past several years now turns on him, and devours him whole. And that’s why I made the graphic at the top of the post. I’m hoping that some group out there that loves God as much as they hate men in dresses, might want to use it for their “Recall Pence” campaign.
One last thing… The gay rights ship has sailed. It’s been 20 years since Ellen started making out with women on television, and over a decade since folks everywhere welcomed the crew from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy into their living rooms. And young people don’t give a fuck about sexual orientation. I can appreciate that some people are horrified by this, but there’s no turning it around. They might be able to push back with bills like this one that passed last week in Indiana, but, as the subsequent backlash has demonstrated, it won’t hold up. The world has already made up its mind to move on. If the folks in Lansing were smart, which they’re not, they would have passed a state-wide civil rights bill on Monday, and gotten on the phone immediately with folks at the NCAA, Angie’s List, and every other group threatening to walk away from Indiana, welcoming them to Michigan. Instead, though, we’re talking about pushing through our own legislation. Yes, we’re apparently that stupid…