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A License To Discriminate


What You Need To Know About Indiana’s New “Religious Freedom” Law

Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) signed a law last Thursday that further enables discrimination against gay and lesbian people in the state. The so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” or RFRA, uses the guise of protecting religious liberty to enable private citizens and organizations to deny services to others if they claim that their religious views are “substantially burdened.”

The event has led to an enormous, broad-based backlash, including from a number of companies that are worried the law is bad for business. It also has led to some confused reporting from major news outlets about what the new law actually does.

Here are the four things you need to know about this license to discriminate.

1. Religious freedom is a core American value and a basic right, which is why it is already protected by the Constitution. The Indiana RFRA is an unnecessary law — one that opens a can of worms that would allow corporations and other private entities to justify discrimination against individuals that might otherwise be protected under law. Religious freedom doesn’t give us the right to harm others or force our religious beliefs on those who hold different views.

2. The new law has caused a massive wave of high-profile backlash. More than a dozen high-profile companies with presences in the state have protested the law, including major tech companies, three of the state’s major universities, the NCAA, the Indiana Pacers basketball team, and Eli Lilly and Company, the global drug giant which employs 11,000 in the state. Hillary Clinton expressed her displeasure, and celebrities from pop star Miley Cyrus to actor George Takei took to social media to slam the law.

3. The Indiana RFRA is different — and worse — than the federal RFRA and other state RFRAs. The Washington Post has written that there are other states with laws like Indiana’s, and Gov. Pence has claimed that President Obama, as an Illinois state Senator, voted for “the very same language.” But while at first glance they may appear similar, there is a significant distinction that extends the ramifications of the Indiana law beyond many others. While other RFRAs apply to disputes between a person or entity and a government, Indiana’s includes a clause that applies to disputes between private citizens or entities. What’s more, while the federal, and many state RFRAs, provide protection only if a law in question substantially burdens a person’s religious exercise, the Indiana RFRA only requires that the complainant believe their religious freedom may “likely” be violated to invoke the law’s protection.

4. Even if the Indiana RFRA is clarified, LGBT discrimination will be legal in much of Indiana and most of the U.S. As we have written about before, 29 states lack explicit sexual orientation nondiscrimination protections, and 32 states lack explicit gender identity nondiscrimination protections. That means a gay person can be legally married one day, and then legally fired based on sexual orientation or gender identity the next.

BOTTOM LINE: Rather than expand exemptions for people who don’t want to follow the law, we should be working to protect all people from discrimination and create the inclusive prosperity that helps our economy and our families. Hopefully the politicians in Indiana (and elsewhere) promoting these kinds of laws to discriminate will see that citizens are not behind them, and companies will take their business elsewhere.

Pamela Anderson via Change.org

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Protecting Working Americans’ Paychecks

 The White House, Washington

In this week’s address, the President highlighted the progress made protecting American consumers since he signed Wall Street reform into law five years ago, including an important new step taken by the independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this week toward preventing abuses in payday lending.

The President emphasized his commitment to fighting to advance middle-class economics and ensure everybody who works hard can get ahead, while opposing attempts by Republicans both to weaken the CFPB and give large tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class.

Watch the President’s Weekly Address here.




Watch President Obama's address here.
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5 Years LaterOn March 23, 2010, President Obama signed a historic law that has transformed the lives of millions of Americans. Thanks to Obamacare, people across the country have more affordable coverage, higher-quality care, and better health.Today, more than 16 million Americans have gained health coverage that suits their needs. 76 million people are now benefiting from preventive care coverage. Up to 129 million people with pre-existing conditions are no longer at risk of being denied coverage. The facts are in: The Affordable Care Act is working.Look back at the passage of Obamacare.READ MOREWatch: The President Talks with the Creator of “The Wire” About the War on Drugs

A beat reporter in Baltimore and a state senator from Chicago: two men who saw the disproportionate impact of America’s war on drugs firsthand early in their careers.

This week, that former reporter and creator of HBO’s “The Wire” — David Simon — and that former young senator — President Barack Obama — sat down to talk honestly about the challenges law enforcement face and the consequences communities bear from the war on drugs.

Listen to what President Obama and David Simon said about the war on drugs.


“Keep Exploring, Keep Dreaming, Keep Asking Why”

The halls of the White House were filled with science projects on Monday, as President Obama welcomed more than 100 young scientists for the fifth-annual White House Science Fair.

The President spoke with students about the role that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) plays in their lives, and urged them to keep exploring, dreaming, and asking why. He also announced a number of ambitious steps to inspire young people to engage with STEM fields and help them achieve their goals.

See more from the fifth-annual White House Science Fair.


To see more of the week’s highlights, check out the latest edition of West Wing Week.

a message from Gov. Inslee

When I released my budget, I said that we needed to reinvest in Washington. I stated that we need to find a sustainable, long-term solution to funding what we care about most: our schools, our infrastructure, our health, and our environment. To that end, I proposed that we raise revenues in two major ways: by charging our state’s biggest polluters and by introducing a capital gains tax.

It is an ambitious plan, and it’s one I believe we need in order to move our state forward.

Yesterday, the House released its budget, and while we’re still reviewing the details, I support the general framework of their plan.

Here’s why:

This budget is fair. It includes capital gains as a revenue source that would raise millions by taxing a small group of the wealthiest Washingtonians. It also raises revenue by closing tax loopholes.

This budget is balanced. By introducing new revenue streams like the capital gains tax, it allows for increased investment in our schools, our health, and our infrastructure.

This budget invests in our people. It provides funding for early learning, a tuition freeze, and mental health services.

This is an approach I can support.

I’m disappointed that the House didn’t include my proposed carbon market program because we know that a healthy environment is one more investment in our future that we need to make. I’ll continue to advocate for programs that will reduce carbon pollution, and am glad that the House leadership committed to continue working on this measure as budget negotiations continue.

The important thing to know is this: For nearly half a decade, we’ve been cutting essential services and neglecting our duty to invest in the future. That stops now.

It’s time, once again, that we invest in Washington.

Very truly yours,

Jay Inslee