Last year, Gov. Mike Pence and the members of the Indiana General Assembly should have learned a hard lesson.
Legislators passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act law many people believed would allow for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The law, called RFRA for short, stuck a lot of labels on Indiana, none of them good. Across the nation, people wondered what was up with Hoosiers — why did the people of this state believe it was all right to discriminate against gays and lesbians?
A lot of regular Hoosiers knew this perception, born out of actions by the governor and legislature, did not describe them. A lot of regular Hoosiers had opposed RFRA from the start, as did many of the state’s leading business organizations and universities, including Indiana University. It took a few days, but Pence and top legislators understood they had to stop the bleeding. They added language, as a bandage, that said RFRA did not allow discrimination.
They also promised to consider in the 2016 legislative session expanding the state’s civil rights law to protect more citizens.
That’s a promise they most now keep. They must expand the state civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected legal classes. They must ensure rights for all in employment, housing and public accommodation.
Otherwise, they didn’t learn anything from last year’s mess.