For months, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said Tuesday, he has been studying the question of whether to extend civil rights protections to gays and transgendered people. "I have met with Hoosiers on every side of this debate," Pence said, "from pastors, to LGBT activists, to college presidents, to business leaders."
But as he concluded his State of the State address with remarks about the issue, it became apparent that the governor hasn’t really learned very much.
When reaction to his Religious Freedom Restoration Act devastated Indiana’s national reputation last spring, Pence proclaimed himself baffled at the idea that anyone would think RFRA was aimed at empowering anti-gay discrimination. He rushed before the national media to assert that no Hoosier would ever countenance such a thing.
He reiterated all of that Tuesday night, saying he believes that "no one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are, who they love, or what they believe. We cherish the dignity and worth of all our citizens."
Yet Pence still seems to believe that putting those noble sentiments into the state’s civil rights codes would somehow imperil Hoosiers’ freedom of religion.
He questioned "whether it is necessary or even possible to reconcile these two values in the law without compromising the freedoms we hold dear" and warned, "I will not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers."
But many cities around Indiana already forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
No one’s religious freedom has been taken away.
If basic human rights and religious freedom would clash anywhere, you would think it would be here, in the City of Churches.
But Fort Wayne extended basic rights protection to gays more than a decade ago, and there has never been a problem.
All that study, all that talking, and Pence never heard about Fort Wayne?