By TNH Editorial Staff
All eyes have been on the state of Indiana since Gov. Mike Pence signed into law legislation which critics say allows business to discriminate individuals who identify gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.
The governor’s office has taken some major heat for passing this law and rightfully so. Many businesses within the state’s borders are threatening to relocate their offices. Others outside state lines have considered terminating commerce within Indiana, which could spell serious trouble for the Hoosier State.
Apparently Gov. Pence was not anticipating this much backlash, if any at all. “Candidly, when this erupted last week, even though I had made my position clear weeks ago that I would sign the bill, without much discussion, I was taken aback,” he told the New York Times.
Gov. Pence was clearly mistaken in his judgments. A similar law appeared on Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk this week, which returned to the legislature for revisions. It didn’t take long for corporate giant Walmart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, to express its distaste for the law, which some say prompted Gov. Hutchinson’s decisions to send the bill back.
This debate carries some heavy weight and has the power to stain someone’s political career. Why would a politico such as Gov. Pence — who was considered by some pundits to be a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 —consider signing such a bill to be a smart move? Indiana’s attempt to ban same-sex marriage last year was shot down by the Supreme Court, and yet the governor and his GOP-laden legislature (Republicans occupy 40 of 50 seats in the state senate) keep resisting the nation’s progress towards equality.
But while the fire brewing in Indianapolis has stimulated a national conversation surrounding rights for the LGBTQ+ community, the rest of the nation may not be as inclusive as we hoped. According to an article on Vox.com, only 19 states have a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Three additional states ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, including New Hampshire.
Marriage equality aside, why are more than half the states dragging their feet on simple anti-discrimination laws that would protect the civil rights of our friends and neighbors?
New Hampshire’s legislation hit the books in 1998, according to GLAD.com, a LGBTQ legal advocacy site, and prohibits “discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV status.” While New Hampshire’s law does not explicitly include the same protections for transgender individuals, a claim could still be made and likely recognized in the Granite State.
Indiana seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. As it appears, the law prohibits government from infringing on a person’s right to exercise his or her religious beliefs unless the government has necessary reason to do so. Critics argue what the law actually means and how it could be used in a courtroom setting.
Gov. Pence tried to patch his reputation back together in an interview on an ABC Sunday news program. What resulted was an awkward exchange that may have hurt him even more.
This is already a political disaster Gov. Pence. But more importantly, it has shed light on the long road the nation has towards truly reaching equality for everyone.