Indiana's recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act has cause a bit of a stir. Political leaders such as Clinton, business leaders such as Benioff and Cook, celebrities as well as protestors have all claimed this law will be used for the purpose of discriminating against gays.

But why do they believe this? 19 states already have virtually the same law without any serious controversy or cries of discrimination after the fact. Moreover, all of these laws are essentially the same as the federal RFRA which was introduced by the liberal Chuck Schumer, championed by the liberal Ted Kennedy, and signed into law by the liberal Bill Clinton (with no comments that I could find from Hillary at that point). So why are people complaining about it this time?

  • 4
    Faulty premise: People have complained about similar laws in other states for the same reason.
    – cpast
    Mar 31, 2015 at 6:47
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    @cpast disagree. No states had anywhere near this level of uproar, and I believe the federal version had a unanimous vote Mar 31, 2015 at 19:11
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    Per the link you provided in your answer, regarding the Hobby Lobby case "Nineteen members of Congress who signed the original RFRA stated in a submission to the Supreme Court that they "could not have anticipated, and did not intend, such a broad and unprecedented expansion of RFRA". This is seen by some as yet another expansion of the RFRA above and beyond the original spirit/intentions.
    – user1530
    Mar 31, 2015 at 20:36
  • youtube.com/watch?v=qc2xTWHqF6I Apr 2, 2015 at 18:17

2 Answers 2


The Indiana RFRA has a couple of clauses that the Federal RFRA and other state RFRA's do not. In particular, it clarifies that private businesses are protected by it, and it clarifies that they are protected even when the government is not a party to the relevant lawsuit. This is important, because a judge in a lawsuit against a supplier of wedding cakes that discriminated against a gay couple in New Mexico found that the RFRA did not apply, as the government was not a party. Given how specific the clause is, the law is seen as a reaction to the New Mexico case.

Now, does this mean that Indiana's RFRA would legalize discrimination against LGBT persons? It would not, because such discrimination is already legal in Indiana. As LGBT people are not currently considered members of a protected class (the Supreme Court has never decided on the merits of considering them a protected class), Federal legislation does not protect them from discrimination by private business. As such, such discrimination is only illegal in states with laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT persons, and Indiana is not one of the states that has such a law.

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    This is actually pretty funny when you think about it. No, it's not allowing them to discriminate against LGBT's because they already can discriminate. Funny, but still pretty disgusting. Mar 31, 2015 at 12:35

20 other states do have similar law to Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration. The big difference is that some if not all of those states (like Connecticut) also have laws specifically protecting Gays and Lesbians as well. That isn't true in Indiana. If Indiana also passed laws that spoke to protecting this group you would hear a lot less noise.

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