Editorial: New Indiana law is a step backward for civil rights

Indiana Governor Mike Pence

Wikimedia Commons

Indiana Governor Mike Pence

Editorial Board

Indiana took a big step backward in civil rights on Thursday when Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. The new law will allow Indiana businesses to legally refuse services to people who are gay. This is the first bill to become law under a movement of states that have legislation moving through the state legislatures to “protect religious freedoms.”

According to CNN, 10 states, including Indiana, are tying to join a handful of other states around the nation that have laws allowing businesses to legally deny services to people who are gay. Many who oppose the law are worried the vagueness of the law’s language will foster discrimination. During the past 10 years, states, and this nation, have made bounding strides to achieve equality for same-sex marriages or civil rights for people who are gay. It’s actions like these that hinder progress.

Those who worry that the vague nature of the law’s language will create a gray area that facilitates discrimination have more than enough reason for concern, especially because the law itself is a nearly textbook example or dictionary definition of discrimination.

The situation draws sickening similarities to the walk-outs and sit-ins of restaurants of the 1960s when people were similarly barred from being provided service for a characteristic they were born with and could not change, and should never be forced to desire changing.

The NCAA men’s basketball Final Four tournament will be played in Indianapolis on April 4. The recent law has worried spectators, most notably Jason Collins, a former NBA player who was the first to come out as a gay athlete in the sport and now works as an analyst for Yahoo Sports. Collins tweeted in response to the law if it was “going to be legal for someone to discriminate against me [and] others when we come” to the Final Four.

NCAA President Mark Emmert issued a statement on Thursday on the behalf of the association, stating, “we are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.” Emmert went on to say in the release, “moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

Arizona had a similar event happen when a bill went through its state legislature, only to be turned down by the governor. Realizing the absurdity behind such legislation opened the eyes of lawmakers to understand these kind of discriminatory acts were not going to make it during this progressive time of equality. That was until Indiana brought the equality train to a screeching halt.

During this time, those opposing the law should not admit defeat but rather become louder than before. Continuously show you disapproval of this kind of action from someone appointed by the people of Indiana. It were those like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi who championed civil rights with nonviolent acts. And now, in 2015, we must do the same. Oppose those with backward thinking and continue the fight toward equality for all.