The Shadow over Indiana

22 FEBRUARY 2015: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on 'FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace'.  Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 'dark horse' for the GOP presidential nomination, and the Hoosier State's 'religious freedom' bill empowering discrimination, which Pence signed into law in late March.  (Image credit: FOX News)

“Indiana businesses can now discriminate against gay people because of the ACA’s contraception policy?”

Steve Benen

Perhaps it seems an odd question, but there is a reason, after all:

The Republican governor, and possible presidential candidate, published a Wall Street Journal op-ed overnight in which Pence outlined his plan to address businesses that exploit his new law to discriminate against gay consumers: “If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore.”msnbc

As Rachel joked on the show last night, “So, if you were worried that gay people might be refused service by a business in Indiana now, don’t worry. That could never happen because the state has decided to wield the grave threat of depriving businesses of Mike Pence’s personal patronage.”

In the same piece, the Hoosier State governor suggested this whole mess can be traced back to Obamacare.

Many states have enacted [Religious Freedom Restoration Acts] of their own … but Indiana never passed such a law. Then in 2010 came the Affordable Care Act, which renewed concerns about government infringement on deeply held religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby and the University of Notre Dame both filed lawsuits challenging provisions that required the institutions to offer certain types of insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.

Last year the Supreme Court upheld religious liberty in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, based on the federal RFRA. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, the need for a RFRA at the state level became more important, as the federal law does not apply to states. To ensure that religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law, this year the General Assembly enshrined these principles in Indiana law. I fully supported that action.

Hmm. Indiana businesses can now discriminate against gay people because of the ACA’s contraception policy?

This apparently wasn’t persuasive, either, leading Pence to announce this morning his support for a legislative “fix.”

The question persists: How did Pence not see this coming?

Or the rest of Indiana for that matter, but there was a time not so long ago when Gov. Pence was the subject of dark horse whispersα, the serious politician who would save the GOP from itself in 2016. That might seem a bit far-fetched.

Then again, Mr. Pence can always try to be the most serious clown in the car. To wit, if we might suggest his Republican colleague in Kansas, Sam Brownback, is picking a fight to lose in order to rally the troops, why whould Indiana, or Arkansasβ, for that matter, not follow suit in their own way?

In the end, the futility is an insult of its own; the intended “religious freedom” is a discriminatory condition that cannot be, such that now Mr. Pence is backpedaling and trying to pretend that the law is not about what it was ostensibly about. Indeed, as Steve Benen noted this morning:

Over the course of just six days, Pence has endorsed the law, then endorsed changing the law, then opposed changing the law, then re-endorsed changing the law, only to then oppose changes again ....

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) loves riding people's asses for the sake of hatred.  Oh, wait, wrong picture. (FLCL episode 4, 'Full Swing').... Indeed, if you watched Pence’s press conference closely yesterday, there was one word he used 12 times: “perception.” At one point, the governor said, “[T]his is a perception problem.” Later the governor added that he’s determined “to correct the perception that’s taken hold.”

It seems Pence is convinced that there is no real problem with his anti-gay measure; there’s only the appearance of a problem. We should expect, then, a resolution that doesn’t fix the problem, so much as it gives the appearance of fixing the problem.

Like Brownback’s executive order in Kansas targeting the transgendered, the Hoosier State tantrum is about making a stand in order to rally the political base, energize the rank and file, and, ultimately, raise funds.

And that’s how this whole question of civil rights, equality, and “religious freedom” comes distills. They can’t win. They’re simply being cruel because it feels good and, hey, they might be able to make a buck or two along the way.

To the other, is this really what conservatives mean when they speak of family values in Middle America?

Functionally speaking, yes, it is.

Consider the proposition of cruelty as a human right and societal virtue. After all, that’s what they’re asking.


Image note: Top ― Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on ‘FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace’, 22 February 2015. Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 ‘dark horse’ for the GOP presidential nomination, and the Hoosier State’s ‘religious freedom’ bill empowering discrimination, which Pence signed into law in late March. (Image credit: FOX News) Right―That’s not Indiana Gov. Mike Pence riding Naota’s ass, but, rather Kamon’s corpse. Still, the detail from FLCL episode 4, “Brittle Bullet”, makes for a useful metaphor in describing the problem of Indiana’s hateful assertion of conservative family values.

α Matt K. Lewis of The Daily Caller, for instance, in September, 2013; or Matt Freedlander for The Daily Beast, June, 2014; and Phillip Rucker brought the question to the Washington Post in December. FOX News pushed the case as recently as February.

β Consider the report from Arkansas, as Campbell Robertson and Richard Pérez-Peña explain:

As late as Tuesday afternoon, legislators who opposed the bill in Arkansas were trying to add amendments clarifying that it could not be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians, similar to what political leaders in Indiana are considering. But the sponsors of the legislation refused those amendments during the legislative process and on Tuesday dismissed them as last-minute efforts to kill the bill.

Benen, Steve. “Indiana’s Pence looks for ‘fix,’ blames Obamacare”. msnbc. 31 March 2015.

—————. “Mike Pence’s contradictory assurances”. msnbc. 1 April 2015.

Lewis, Matt K. “Pence and The Revolution: Five reasons he might be the 2016 dark horse to watch”. The Daily Caller. 10 September 2013.

Freedlander, David. “Mike Pence, Dark Horse in Training for 2016”. The Daily Beast. 27 June 2015.

Rucker, Phillip. “Mike Pence lays out vision for a presidential campaign. But will he be a candidate?” The Washington Post. 12 December 2014.

Roberts, John. “Potential 2016 dark-horse candidate: Mike Pence”. Fox News Sunday. 22 February 2015.

Robertson, Campbell and Richard Pérez-Peña. “Bills on ‘Religious Freedom’ Upset Capitols in Arkansas and Indiana”. The New York Times. 31 March 2015.

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