Roxana Bell Discusses the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act with WISH TV 8
The highly contested Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is now in effect as of July 1, 2015. WISH TV 8 invited BGD’s Roxana S. Bell to discuss the law and its potential impact during the station’s morning news program. As written, the state version of the Act isn’t very much different than the federal version enacted over 20 years ago, but one of the more notable differences is that the Act explicitly extends religious liberty rights to corporations.
Bell explained that the law was immediately criticized when first enacted, before clarification, because people thought it was a license to discriminate for businesses.
Despite the national criticism, Bell explained that Indiana’s RFRA law doesn’t alter employers’ obligations at all. In fact, they remain under the same Title VII obligation to protect against race, color, religion, sex and national origin discrimination in their employment practices. According to Bell, the clarification to the RFRA was a significant amendment not only because it protects local discrimination laws from any RFRA-based claims, but also because it serves as the first acknowledgment by the State of Indiana that sexual orientation and gender identity are matters of anti-discrimination concern.
As more and more localities are enacting their own local laws specifically protecting gay and transgender people, the clarification was a significant first step toward state-wide recognition of gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes.