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April 21, 2015

Indiana’s freedom of religion bill is a step back

A crowd protests the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on March 28, 2015. Both Indiana and Arkansas recently passed bills that proponents say will protect religious freedom, but that critics say will allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT people. (Photo by Nate Chute/Reuters)

By Mallory Haag

A law as important as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) should make my state alive with debate and discussion, but Indiana hasn’t seemed to notice. Business goes on as usual, with or without its ability to discriminate against the LGBT community.

In Indiana, more often than not, there is no overt aggression towards the gay community. There are few violent encounters. What gay people encounter is a kind of quiet intolerance that molds their day-to-day lives. The RFRA sanctions this kind of exclusion by enabling those who are intolerant to cite legislation to justify their prejudice.

My biggest reaction to the RFRA is disappointment. I am not shocked that the bill has been passed. I am not thrilled that my state now enables businesses to treat anyone with intolerance, but I am hopeful that things will change.

For youth, it’s especially difficult. Our generation is not in control and for a lot of LGBT youth, this means being misrepresented and feeling helpless to do anything about it. The accepting and forward-thinking nature of the Millennials seems to have been drowned out.

My twin sister, who came out as a lesbian two years ago, has told me she is not surprised that the law passed. She has grown accustomed to regular passive discrimination in Indiana. “People are set on keeping their ability to discriminate,” she said.

People in charge seem to be unaffected by this law. They will talk about it, but only if the topic is forced. Adults generally ignore the outcomes of the law and turn a blind eye to the consequences. Although adults seem to be dissatisfied with the legislation, there doesn’t seem to be much they are willing to do about it.

My generation and I are disappointed in the decisions our politicians have made, but we are willing to be patient and prepare for the time when we will be in charge. We will be a generation that makes change and promotes the well-being of all people.

Case Bosma, a gay high school student in Indiana, said that he hopes to see more acceptance in the state in the future. “Acceptance is what I’m hoping for, and I can see it is a distinct possibility,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time.”

RFRA challenges the recent progress Indiana has made in legalizing gay marriage, it justifies a short-sighted approach to the gay community and it stalls progress for LGBT people. Despite these ugly realities, the youth of today continue to accept others and support policies that other people consider controversial. That kind of tolerance is what will change America in 30 years, and I believe it will change for the better.

Mallory Haag is a senior at William Henry Harrison High School in West Lafayette, IN.

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