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Religious Freedom Restoration Act vs LGBTQ Community


1993 – President Bill Clinton signs the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. This Act was created to protect the rights of minority religious groups such as the Amish and Native Americans. It’s important to distinguish that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was enacted primarily so that the rights of these groups were not infringed upon by the government.[i]

2013 – In early 2013 “the US Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision in United States v. Windsor declared unconstitutional part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defined marriage solely as a legal union between a man and a woman.”[ii] This is a distinction made on a federal level. Due to this change, beginning in 2013 and beyond, states began to reconsider and/or change their laws on gay marriage.

2014 – Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Arkansas from May 9th until 16th at which time it was pending appeal. November of that year the federal court struck down Arkansas’ ban on same sex marriage. [iii]

Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Indiana from June 25th through June 27th at which time an emergency stay was issued.

The Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby based upon the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This case is significant because it set the dangerous precedent of considering profit-making companies as people.


Based on the Hobby Lobby outcome lawmakers in Arkansas, Indiana and other states-primarily in the south and plains-have adopted their own versions of the Religious Freedom Reformation Act. Unlike the other states, Indiana and Arkansas’ adaptations have broadened the scope of the language. Conservatives have tried to have “person” not only include profit making companies, but also explicitly include businesses, employers, landlords and corporations.

Indiana has in essence given religious rights to corporations so that the law can be used in private suits, not just suits taken with the government as the 1993 Act states. The ’93 law was specifically in relation to actions involving government agencies. Critics have called Indiana’s bill a thinly veiled attempt to undermine gay marriage by giving businesses consent to deny services to gay and lesbian couples.


Indiana and Governor Mike Pence have faced a fierce backlash from political groups, celebrities, sports teams, Indiana University and, most importantly, corporations like Apple, Yelp, and Wal-Mart. Such widespread opposition can threaten a state economically, having the potential to curtail business and educational expansion with devastating results.

Due to this momentous outcry, Indiana has added a provision that states that religious liberty does not mean businesses can discriminate based on sexual orientation. As a whole, all of these lawmaking measures have backfired bringing about a call for civil rights protections for gays and lesbians nationwide. The new provision in Indiana will mean that now there are some protections where previously there were none.

Arkansas is also facing the same potential backlash as it follows in Indiana’s footsteps. Just this month Governor Asa Hutchinson urged lawmakers to change the legislation in the religious freedom measure to make it more closely align with the 1993 Act. That change was voted down and the bill will go as is to the House for a vote this week. Governor Hutchinson states, “The bill, as well as a similar one passed in Indiana, would allow religious parties as well as small businesses and larger corporations if they are substantially owned by members with strong religious convictions, to claim exemptions from government mandates.”[iv]

These laws are suddenly so important mainly due to the fact that major changes are being made for the first time post the overwhelming change in public opinion about gay marriage. Unfortunately, laws that were created to shield minority religious groups are being used to impose upon the rights of others by challenging gay marriage and LGBTQ equality.

History and timelines aside, what’s most important to consider is the overall protection offered to gays and lesbians by our government. Even with 37 states offering gay marriage, with more likely to follow, that does not ensure total protection of the law. According to the ACLU, there are 29 states that don’t include any protections for gays and lesbians in their anti-discrimination laws[v]. That means no employment protection, housing protection, civil-liberty protection, as well as a vast number of others. The attention garnered in Arkansas and Indiana has lead the way to guaranteeing this issue is addressed in the following election year.

QUEER SENSE is authored by Bryce B. Summers, Ph.D., psychologist and author. Please help change attitudes to acceptance domestic, and abroad by contributing to Indiegogo and help make this book happen! Queer Sense is a theory that fosters awareness on how culture shapes attitude development through social models, emotional connections to social models, aka attachment, and use of language.








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