Right-wing groups in Indiana are suing to establish a right to discriminate against LGBT people, seeking to overturn local nondiscrimination laws as well as the “fix” to that state’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Indiana Family Institute and the American Family Association of Indiana filed the suit Thursday in Hamilton County Superior Court in Indiana. It contends that the LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws in Indianapolis and Carmel interfere with the religious freedom of those who oppose homosexuality, as does the RFRA fix, designed to assure that the RFRA would not supersede those ordinances or otherwise enable discrimination, The Indianapolis Star reports.
“The ‘fix’ makes people of faith second-class citizens,” said a statement issued by Indiana Family Institute president Curt Smith, the Star reports. James Bopp, the conservative lawyer representing the groups, added in a statement of his own that the law as it stands “pits some religions that the government protects” — those that are LGBT-friendly — “against other religions that will suffer government punishment if they don't fall in line” and that “this discrimination between religious views is unconstitutional.”
The suit descries the fix as being “in response to protests against RFRA by those who want to force others to not just passively accept persons and conduct inconsistent with the biblical view on marriage and sexual relations but to compel active participation with, and support for, such persons and conduct regardless of a religious objection.”
By barring individuals and businesses from discriminating against LGBT people in employment, housing, and public accommodations, the Indianapolis and Carmel ordinances force conservative Christians “to associate with activities and social, political, and ideological messages with which they disagree, which are substantial burdens on free association,” the suit continues.
Some legal experts were skeptical that the suit would succeed. “The plaintiffs tie themselves into pretzels trying to argue that the RFRA fix is unconstitutional,” Robert Katz, a professor at Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law, told the Star. “I see this as more of a political statement than a serious lawsuit: the plaintiffs are trying to arouse pity for people like themselves.”
He said the suit appears to be an attempt to influence state lawmakers as they consider legislation to establish statewide protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, something Indiana currently lacks. A recently introduced version of such legislation would provide broad exemptions for those with religious objections to such protections, even allowing the state to contract with groups that discriminate.
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