Nationwide fallout continues over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee is banning publicly-funded travel to Indiana that isn't “absolutely necessary.” The NCAA has issued a statement saying it is “especially concerned” about the law's effects on student-athletes and employees. Gen Con LLC Chief Executive Officer Adrian Swartout believes this year's attendees will receive “great service and hospitality” in Indianapolis, but adds discussions have begun about whether to keep the event in Indianapolis after the end of its contract with the city in 2020. During an interview to air this weekend on Inside INdiana Business Television, IndyPolitics.org Publisher Abdul-Hakim Shabazz says there will be political fallout as well. Senate Republicans, including the bill's authors, issued a response saying “this law doesn't threaten anyone.”

Statement From San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today issued the following statement after Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law that legalizes discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals:

“We stand united as San Franciscans to condemn Indiana's new discriminatory law, and will work together to protect the civil rights of all Americans including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Effective immediately, I am directing City Departments under my authority to bar any publicly-funded City employee travel to the State of Indiana that is not absolutely essential to public health and safety. San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by the State of Indiana.”

Source: Office of San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee

March 26, 2015

Statement on Indiana Religious Freedom Bill From NCAA President Mark Emmert

“The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events. We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

Source: The NCAA

March 26, 2015

Statement From Indy Chamber President Michael Huber

“The Indy Chamber remains opposed to this divisive and unnecessary law. In our February testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we warned of the impending negative economic impact this legislation would have on our ability to attract and retain jobs, talent, and investment, noting the bill will encourage current and potential residents, and visitors to take their business elsewhere. Within moments of this legislation being signed, this warning became a stark reality.

The Indy Chamber pledges to work with our partners across the state to strengthen non-discrimination policies at the state and local level. This is clearly not how we want to be perceived and is not reflective of how we do business in Indianapolis.”

About Indy Chamber

The Indy Chamber is the voice of progress and improvement for the Indianapolis region's business community. With membership of nearly 2,300 businesses representing 230,000 employees in the Indianapolis region, the Indy Chamber is leading the effort to strengthen the business climate, improve the state of education, revitalize neighborhoods and enhance the region's workforce. In 2012, the Indy Chamber merged with Indy Partnership, Develop Indy, and Business Ownership Initiative. For more information about the Indy Chamber, visit IndyChamber.com.

Source: The Indy Chamber

March 26, 2015

Response From The Indiana Senate Republicans

This week, the General Assembly passed a bill known as the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act that protects Hoosiers' religious liberty. This bill has been grossly mischaracterized by its opponents as a “license to discriminate,” obscuring the bill's true intent.

The RFRA does one thing: It establishes a legal test for judges to use when deciding whether or not a government act goes too far in burdening someone's exercise of religion. Specifically, the RFRA test says that government can't “substantially burden” religious freedom unless the action furthers “a compelling governmental interest” using “the least restrictive means” possible. The shorthand name for this legal test is “strict scrutiny.”

Some supporters of LGBT rights fear that the legal test established by the RFRA will allow discrimination based on sexual orientation. These fears are unfounded. Many legal scholars, including some who support same-sex marriage, have voiced their support for this legislation in Indiana.

The strict scrutiny test in Indiana's RFRA is copied from the federal RFRA passed by Congress in 1993 and the RFRA laws of 19 other states. In addition to the 19 states with RFRA laws, at least 11 additional states apply strict scrutiny to laws that burden religious freedom through their constitutions. In the decades that federal and state courts have been interpreting RFRA laws, opponents cannot point to a single case in which a court has ruled that the RFRA allows discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In fact, the genesis of RFRA laws has nothing to do with discrimination or same-sex marriage at all. For decades before Congress passed the federal RFRA, the U.S. Supreme Court applied strict scrutiny to laws burdening religious freedom. But in the 1990 case Employment Division v. Smith, the Supreme Court reversed its prior rulings and gave less protection to religious freedom in the United States. National leaders of all political stripes responded by passing the federal RFRA to restore the strict scrutiny test, because they recognized that religious liberty is a fundamental right that deserves strong legal protection.

The federal RFRA that's still in effect today passed the U.S. House unanimously, passed the U.S. Senate 97-3, and was enthusiastically signed into law by President Clinton. The ACLU praised the law’s passage. Among the bill's dozens of Congressional co-sponsors were Nancy Pelosi, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Chuck Schumer.

The bipartisan respect for religious freedom has also carried over to the votes for most state-level RFRA's. For example, when President Obama was an Illinois State Senator in 1998, he voted for Illinois' RFRA.

The impetus for Indiana to pass its own RFRA is a growing fear among Hoosiers that government doesn't adequately respect religious freedom. While Hoosiers respect the religious rights of our neighbors and loved ones, it's unclear if Indiana's courts would apply the same level of protection for religious freedom that citizens in most of the country already enjoy. Indiana's RFRA clarifies this issue for Indiana courts by bringing our state in line with federal courts and most states.

It bears repeating that there is no history of RFRA laws leading to discrimination based on sexual orientation, and there's no reason to think Indiana's RFRA will be any different. This law doesn't threaten anyone. It is a common sense measure to make sure Hoosiers' constitutional rights receive the fullest protection possible.

Source: Indiana Senate Republican Caucus

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