The other fight for equality

Photo: The Atlantic

While the U.S. marches toward marriage equality nationwide, we can’t forget about the broader fight for civil rights protections for LGBT people. In this quick take, an overview of “religious freedom” laws that threaten to set us back.

April 1, 2015

Quick take

The discriminatory anti-LGBT bill that was signed into law today in Indiana, known as the RFRA, makes me sick. Feministing reminds us of the big picture here: This is an alarming trend that’s sweeping red states — and even some blue ones.

In order to stop it, we may need new federal legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but stated clearly to apply to sexual orientation and gender identity, and without any of these bogus “religious” exemptions.

“The reality I and many others feared is coming to pass,” Katherine Cross writes. Many essential civil rights for LGBT people, like protection from discrimination by businesses and their own workplaces, have “been left behind in the all-consuming push towards the single-issue victory” of marriage equality.

While the freedom to marry is an incredibly important civil right, gay people and especially trans people are being legally discriminated against — now even more easily — just for existing. Our larger fight is far from over.

Follow-up

UPDATE: Many states already have their own “religious freedom” laws, so Indiana’s RFRA‬ is just another in a long line of these things, right? Wrong.

What makes Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ law different? Unlike existing laws, this one grants “free exercise of religion” to for-profit businesses and applies to cases where the government isn’t involved.

In the absence of civil rights protections based on sexual orientation in Indiana, it makes it legal for public businesses to deny service to LGBT people. That’s illegal in other states, and it’s why Indiana is such a big deal right now.

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