Monday, April 6, 2015

In Indiana, an Insurrection Defeated

It didn’t take long for Indiana to patch up its right-to-bigotry law, and my guess is that this correction will ultimately stand. The interesting thing is that Indiana’s lawmakers did not make any pretense of repealing the “right to bigotry” itself. That part of the law still stands. The only purpose of the amendment was to separate the “right to bigotry” from the conduct of business, so that anyone doing business with the public can no longer use the law as a license to discriminate, and the culture-war faction can no longer openly use businesses as battlefields against their perceived enemies in American culture.

This is a big deal in a state where businesses were already starting to advertise their enemies lists — and no surprise, it was “non-Christians” who were set to suffer the most at the hands of Indiana businesses. The unfairness of this startled people, but it was the way this seemed to undermine the social contract that was most worrisome. Part of the social contract, in the United States and in most of the civilized world, is that if you conduct yourself more or less peacefully, you are free to participate in the commercial life of the community. You can, for example, go into a store and buy food. The Indiana law seemed to take that away. Could you buy pizza in Indiana if you were gay, or Muslim, or foreign? Suddenly, no one was sure. The new amendment reassures everyone that the state of Indiana is not trying to repeal the social contract, at least not openly and directly. The “right to bigotry” remains on the books in spite of the latest change, and with that, people are viewing the state government and politicians of Indiana as somewhat un-American, and rightly so. However, with the social contract reaffirmed, the crisis in Indiana is over, and now we will see a more familiar protest based on the ideals of fairness and civil rights. The protest is far from over, but it will be a little quieter than the national battle we saw last week. That was the fury of a country scorned and having to stand up to quell an insurrection.