The governor proclaimed as he raised his party’s banner:
Religion, not gay rights, must be our guide in Indiana.
But when business groups erupted with a protest quite prodigious
He suddenly discovered that he wasn’t so religious. 

               “Was I expecting this kind of backlash? “ asked Governor Mike Spence of Indiana . “Heavens, no!.”

               He simply did not expect that a bill approved by his state legislature intended to allow businesses to refuse to provide services to gay weddings would be opposed vociferously by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce as well as by several national corporations and the NCAA who threatened to take their conventions and sporting events elsewhere. With remarkable speed, Pence and the legislature passed a new bill that essentially rescinded the earlier effort.   

               Indignation at the anti-gay proposal was joined by ridicule. Late night comics were beside themselves. David Letterman reported that “Indiana’s gone nuts. Today they banned same-sex carpools”; and he quoted John Kerry complaining he has to “wrap up negotiations with Iran so I can start dealing with Indiana”.  Jimmy Kimmel suggested the whole thing was an April Fools joke.

               Jon Stewart insisted that the bill was an American version of sharia. He mocked the claim that bakers and florists should have the right to refuse to provide services for gay marriage, even though they “gladly do business with all manner of divorced, covetous, name of the Lord in vain adulterers.”               The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz quoted Pence as being “stunned and amazed that so many people seem to have gay friends.” And the online satireworld, mocking a pizza parlor owner who declared he wouldn’t  serve pizzas for a gay wedding proposed a new law that “makes it illegal for gays to buy pizza anywhere in the state.”

               Among the many cartoonists who commented on the issue, Stiglich drew a “Welcome to Indiana” sign over two drinking fountains, one “straight”, one “gay”. And Margolis depicted Jesus saying: “Due to religious beliefs, I refuse to serve Indiana.” 

               The defenders of the original bill did not go quietly. The online NewsBusters (“exposing and combating liberal media bias”) complained that the late night comedians “consistently attacked religious freedom”. A Gary Varvel cartoon showed a “Politics” van crashing into a “Religion” bus. And money poured in to online appeals to support a florist and a pizza parlor that touted their refusal to serve gay weddings.

               But these did little to slow the flood of ridicule. The speed with which the Indiana politicians had surrendered  their deep religious convictions to the almighty dollar was laughable indeed. Yet their utter failure to anticipate the furious reaction was, after all, not so surprising. The 2014 elections seem to have given conservative Republicans strong reasons for pursuing  their policies aggressively. They had majorities in both houses of Congress. There were 31 Republican governors and Republican majorities in  69 state legislatures. Vast amounts of money flooded into the political system to back conservative interests. On most issues they could look to a supportive majority of the Supreme Court. Richly endowed think tanks provided the legal, economic, and foreign policy rationales to advance conservative agendas.. So no quarter was given in the onslaughts on Obamacare, immigration reform, tax increases, and presidential foreign policies. Everything seemed to be in place to halt and roll back the liberal agendas.

               Except on one issue. On gays and gay marriage there had been a sudden, bewildering     transformation of attitudes. As recently as twenty years ago, even many liberals had not encompassed gay marriage in their thinking. Now clear majorities of the public, including even young Republicans, support the idea – as does a majority of the Supreme Court. 

               To older Republicans – those who passed the bill in Indiana and sent money to the florist and pizza parlor owners  -- to be deserted by the courts and by their traditional business supporters is profoundly disorienting.  One almost feels sorry for them.


Posted on Wednesday, April 08, 2015 (Archive on Tuesday, January 02, 2018)



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