2015 March 26

Indiana Passes Anti-Gay “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” – Backs Off a Week Later


The Governor of Indiana on this day signed into law a Religious Freedom Restoration Act which made it unlawful for the government to “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” The national debate over the issue and legislative history of the bill made it clear that it would entitle a business to refuse service to homosexuals and same-sex couples on religious grounds. There had been much publicity in previous months over Christian-owned business such as florists or caterers refusing to serve same-sex weddings. Governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law in a private, rather than a public, ceremony, where the invited guests included lobbyists from the Indiana Family Institute and the American Family Association, two anti-same sex marriage groups.

The law produced an immediate backlash, including opposition from the CEOs of major corporations in Indiana such as Eli Lilly, Cummins, and Dow AgroSciences. Strong opposition was also expressed by major figures across the country, including Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. Governor Pence denied that the law was either discriminatory in intent or its likely impact. Under pressure, the legislature amended the bill to provide protection for LGBT people on April 2, 2015.

Arkansas passed a similar law, the Conscience Protection Act, on March 28, 2015, and it encountered severe criticism from within the state and across the country.

Historians generally regard the “Stonewall Riots” in New York City on June 28, 1969 as the beginning of the modern organized lesbian and gay rights movement.

On June 26, 2015, in Obergefell v. Hudson, the Supreme Court declared that same-sex marriage was constitutional in the entire United States under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Read about the history of the GLBT revolution: Lillian Faderman, The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle (2015)

Read an earlier history of the lesbian and gay rights movement: Dudley Clendinin and Adam Nagourney, Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America (1999)

Read: David Carter, Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution (2004)


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