Last week, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a law with the same name as one signed on the federal level by President Bill Clinton in 1993, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the presumptive next Senate minority leader. Naturally, Pence found himself on the wrong end of a partisan barrage from ABC News' George Stephanopoulos for signing that law the following Sunday. It sure is nice to be a Democrat.
What exactly does the law state? The Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana states that "a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability." That rule does not apply only if the government's action "is in furtherance of a compelling government interest" and is also "the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest." If government does act against someone in violation of that person's religious principles, he or she can assert that violation "as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding."
The law does not specifically single out same-sex marriage as an activity against which a religious person may discriminate, but it certainly holds out that possibility. Of course, that possibility is already inherent in a little concept we in the United States used to call freedom -- freedom to choose how to conduct one's business and freedom to practice one's religion in one's practice of business.
Under a philosophy of freedom, the market solves the general problem of private discrimination, because if one person decides to discriminate against Jews or blacks or gays, he or she loses money and is put out of business for his or her trouble. Nobody has the right, under a philosophy of freedom, to invoke the power of the government's gun in order to force someone to provide a good or service.
That system is a heck of a lot safer for minorities than a system by which government regulates the proper conduct of voluntary activities. Black Americans should know that, given that Jim Crow was not merely a system of voluntary discrimination but a government-enforced set of regulations designed to ban voluntary transactions involving blacks. Gays, too, should understand that freedom is far preferable to government-enforced societal standards governing consenting transactions, given that government used to be utilized to discriminate openly against homosexual behavior.
But the left has rewritten the concept of freedom to mean "whatever the government allows you to do," and leftists now insist that government cannot allow discrimination -- unless, of course, the government is itself enforcing discrimination against religious Christians who don't want to violate their belief in traditional marriage.
Same-sex marriage, it turns out, was never designed to grant legal benefits to same-sex couples. That could have been done under a regime of civil unions. Same-sex marriage was always designed to allow the government to have the power to cram down punishment on anyone who disobeys the government's vision of the public good. One need not be an advocate of discrimination against gays to believe that government does not have the ability to enforce the prevailing social standards of the time in violation of individual rights. There are many situations in which advocates of freedom dislike particular exercises of that freedom but understand that government attacks on individual rights are far more threatening to the public good.
You do not have a right to my services; I have a right to provide my services to whomever I choose. If you believe that your interpretation of public good enables you to bring a gun to the party, you are a bully and a tyrant. So it is with the modern American left, to whom freedom now means only the freedom to do what it is the left wants you to do at point of gun.