An Indiana business owner went on a local radio station and said that he had discriminated against gay or lesbian couples even before Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a law on Thursday protecting business owners who decide to discriminate for “religious liberty” reasons. He then defended the practice and suggested he would do it again.
The business owner, who would not give his name or the name of his business, said he had told some LGBT “people” that equipment was broken in his restaurant and he couldn’t serve them even though it wasn’t and other people were already eating at the tables. “So, yes, I have discriminated,” he told RadioNOW 100.9 hosts. The hosts were surprised the owner said he was okay with discriminating.
“Well, I feel okay with it because it’s my place of business, I pay the rent, I’ve built it with all my money and my doing. It’s my place; I can do whatever I want with it,” he said. “They can have their lifestyle and do their own thing in their own place or with people that want to be with them.”
The law has been highly controversial in the state, with many businesses — including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Apple — saying they were disappointed in the law’s passage and some entities saying they would ban travel or future business in the state thanks to the law’s enactment.
Pence himself has tried to defend the law as not a means of discriminating but rather protecting religious freedom, but these claims run counter to text of the legislation, and in fact how this anonymous business owner seems to interpret it. The governor signed the law in a private ceremony on Thursday, and wouldn’t say who attended the signing ceremony.
Other states are considering following Indiana’s lead. A similar bill is currently being debated in Georgia. Nineteen other states, including nearby Kentucky and Illinois, have adopted religious liberty laws.
These laws try to codify some of what was established when the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case last year, in which a craft store chain objected to covering certain types of birth control for its female employees on religious grounds even though the Affordable Care Act mandated that women must receive birth control coverage without a co-pay as part of its minimum standards of care.
The Supreme Court later established religious objections could apply to any type of birth control and now states are using this ruling to justify such religious liberty bills that aim to protect owners who refuse to serve people based on their religious beliefs.