Against the majority opinion of the state, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law that’s meant to defend businesses who deny same-sex couples service under the guise of “religious freedom.”
By doing so, he is costing his state millions. Gaming convention giant Gen Con, which hosts its annual event in Indianapolis, threatened it will relocate. According to the Indianapolis Star, Gen Con’s absence will leave a more than $50 million hole in the Indianapolis economy from lost revenue in hotels, restaurants and other accommodations.
The Disciples of Christ, a church organization, said it would relocate its 8,000 strong convention in 2017 because of the law. VisitIndy.com, Indiana’s official tourism website, estimated the economic impact of the church’s convention at $11.8 million.
The implications of this are enormous. If someone owns a restaurant and thinks homosexuality is an abomination, they can legally hang a sign that says “No gays allowed.” If someone of faith owns a car repair shop and refuses to serve women, they can if their religion supports it.
By the numbers, Pence is making a pricey statement in favor of discrimination. Unfortunately, it’s at the expense of the people he governs. He seemed proud about his decision to protect religious business owners when he first announced he would sign SB 101 into law, but then he signed in private. Protesters and journalists weren’t allowed to stand in the waiting room of his office. If he was so proud of his decision, why would he sign it so quietly?
After Pence signed the bill, his office stopped answering calls and turned off voicemail. He is ignoring the very people who he swore to listen to and accurately represent. If he so firmly believes in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, he should stand by it and defend it. He shouldn’t hide from people who criticize him. By ignoring the outcries of his voters, putting the economic well-being of Indiana at risk and running away from the mess he made, Pence is acting tyrannically.
He then did what any politician does when they come under fire. He blamed the media for mischaracterizing the bill.
Pence’s crusade to “explain the law in an accurate way,” didn’t do much to sway an already irate public. No matter how Pence tries to explain the implications of RFRA, it is still an institutional license to discriminate.
His recklessness is the reason why Indiana business owners have to post signs outside their door saying “We serve everyone,” in an attempt to retain business.
Not only did Pence tarnish his own political career, and most likely his chances of running for president in 2016, he also hurt the reputation of friendly businesses who just want to make a living.
An online petition to recall Pence exceeded its quota of 40,000 signatures because people recognize that this isn’t how politics should be. Pence’s personal beliefs on homosexuality shouldn’t be put before the well-being of the body he governs.
For my last column at The Murray State News, I will end by saying Pence is a coward, a poor representation of Indiana and he should lose his job.
Column by Carly Besser, Opinion Editor