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Update on Indiana RFRA Law
On April 2, the Indiana General Assembly amended the RFRA law that had been signed by Governor Mike Pence on March 26, 2015. The fix for the law specifically notes that the RFRA does not authorize a provider — including businesses or individuals — to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, goods, employment, housing or public accommodation to any member of the public based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex or military service. Churches and other nonprofit religious organizations (including affiliated schools) are exempt from the definition of "provider."
After an overwhelming outcry to repeal or fix the bill, the bill with the new language, was signed into law by Governor Pence on April 2, 2015. Most of the businesses and associations were pleased with the new language although most now want the state to pass a nondiscrimination law for all protected classes, including sexual orientation and gender identity. While not on the table previously, the state legislature has said it will consider such a bill next session.
OAH Executive Committee Issues Statement of Opposition to Indiana's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act"
On Thursday, March 26, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" despite exceptionally strong protests of the Republican Mayor of Indianapolis, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA, headquartered in Indianapolis), Visit Indy (the Indianapolis convention bureau), churches, and many individuals presenting multiple petitions. As the statements of these individuals and groups indicate, the Act does not reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of Indianapolis and Bloomington residents or of Indiana's many other cities that have worked hard to welcome residents of many backgrounds and views, creating a highly diverse state. The OAH Executive Committee has issued the statement below regarding the Act and is writing the Governor and the leaders in the Indiana House and Senate indicating its strong disapproval of this Act.
"The Executive Committee of the Organization of American Historians, headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana, strongly urges the Indiana Legislature and Governor Mike Pence to repeal the 'Religious Freedom Restoration Act' signed into law March 26, 2015. The Act carries alarming potential for abuse in the form of discrimination on many grounds--religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation. The OAH strongly condemns any legislation that can be employed to discriminate against any person, whether on the basis of 'any exercise of religion' or simple personal ethnic or racial prejudice. The OAH Executive Committee urges the immediate repeal of this Act to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all residents of the State of Indiana and visitors to the state."
An article was written in The New York Times on the reactions of Indiana citizens and businesses. That article can be read here.
The Organization of American Historians is an external agency of Indiana University and is housed on the Bloomington, IN campus. The President of IU, Michael McRobbie, issued a statement about the passing of the new law. It can be read here.
In an unusual move, the Indianapolis Star on March 31, 2015 placed an editorial on its front page demanding that this bill be fixed - read more here.
Earlier articles in the Indianapolis Star about the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act":
- What the 'religious freedom' law really means for Indiana
- Thousands in Indy protest 'religious freedom' law
The text of the new law can be read in full here.
OAH Amicus Brief Filed in Same-Sex Marriage Case
The OAH has submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the same-sex marriage case, James Obergefell, et al. vs. Richard Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Public Health. Written by OAH member George Chauncey, professor of history and American studies at Yale University, the brief focuses on the history of discrimination against gays. Opening oral arguments are expected to be heard in the last week of April, with a decision to be issued the last week of June.
Important Hotel Information for Annual Meeting
The Renaissance Grand Hotel is sold out on the evening on Wednesday, April 15. The OAH Annual Meeting opens on Thursday, April 16 at noon. For those who are able, we encourage you to come to St. Louis on Thursday morning, for those who must fly in on Wednesday we are working on overflow hotels for Wednesday evening.
OAH Election Results
The results are in! Congratulations to our newest Executive Board and Nominating Board members. After the Annual Meeting, Jon Butler, Yale University, emeritus, will become OAH President, Nancy Cott, Harvard University, will become President-Elect, and Ed Ayers, University of Richmond, will become Vice President.
We've Launched a Blog: "Process"
Process will complement OAH programs and publications, serving as a dynamic way to engage contemporary discussions on researching, teaching, and working in the field of U.S. history. It will present interesting, original submissions from a wide-ranging and diverse digital community of public historians, teachers, academics, students, and researchers.