Companies and organizations have begun to boycott Indiana over its new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The New York Times announced in a headline: “Bill Signed Allowing Denial of Service to Gays.” Gay-rights organizations are calling the law a “license to discriminate.” And celebrities from Miley Cyrus to George Takei have been hyperventilating.
But the law doesn’t do anything. At all.
We already have a national Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law in 1993. That means that for 22 years already, Indiana and its jurisdictions have been barred from “substantially burden(ing) a person’s exercise of religion,” unless the burden “is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”
As of yesterday, Indiana and its jurisdictions have been barred from “substantially burden(ing) a person’s exercise of religion,” unless the burden “is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”
Notice the difference? Wait, there isn’t one.
And despite what you may have heard, these acts do not authorize religious people to discriminate against gay people. I know of no religion that would be substantially burdened if its adherents were forced to sell a lesbian a cookie.
The “cake baker” controversies you’ve heard about relate to traditionally religious people who don’t want to participate in a ceremony they don’t believe in, to contribute to an idea they don’t share. It’s not about discriminating against gays – and I can prove it to you.
If a gay couple came into the shop of one a traditionally religious baker and tried to order a cake for the opposite-sex marriage of a cousin, she would almost certainly accept their business. And if a straight couple tried to order a cake from the same baker for a cousin’s same-sex marriage, they would almost certainly be refused.
How is that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation? It’s discrimination against kinds of cakes, and against kinds of ceremonies. A cake cannot have a sexual orientation.
So why all the fuss?
I believe people are upset about Indiana’s new Seinfeld law (it’s about nothing) because they know the impulse behind it is to keep the gay-marriage juggernaut from intimidating and punishing people who believe marriage is what it always was – two-gendered. The same people who used to ask, “How would my marriage affect you?” now cannot tolerate even the idea that someone doesn’t believe their marriage is a marriage.
Since the whole country already has an Indiana-style law, if the NCAA wants to avoid tournaments in places that bar substantially burdening religious people, it will have to hold the Final Four in Tijuana or Toronto.
Good luck with that.
David Benkof is Senior Political Analyst for the Daily Caller. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter (@DavidBenkof); or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.