Indiana Amends Law Allowing Photographers to Refuse Same-Sex Clients After Being Blasted By the White House

Apr 3, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

Indiana Amends Law Allowing Photographers to Refuse Same-Sex Clients After Being Blasted By the White House

Apr 3, 2015

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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The state of Indiana recently approved a law allowing businesses to decline same-sex clients. Bill supporters promoted it stating that “Christian bakers, florists and photographers should not be punished for refusing to participate in a homosexual marriage!”.

Prior to signing the amendment Indiana governor Mike Pence continued to protect the law claiming it is identical to the 1993 federal religious freedom law.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Pence and other state officials are in “damage control mode”, and debunked the governor’s lies about the similarity between the two laws.

The following day an amendment was approved by Indiana’s House, Senate and governor, though not without resistance.

While this law did not refer solely to photographers, the only court case of a business being sued due to a state-level religious freedom act was against a photographer.

In his daily press briefing held on April 1st, Earnest attacked Governor Pence and called out his lies about the law:

“I know that Gov. Pence has tried to falsely suggest that the law that was signed in Indiana is the same as the law that was passed at the federal level in 1993. That is not true, and the reason that that’s not true is that the 1993 law was an effort to protect the religious liberty of religious minorities based on actions that could be taken by the federal government.

The Indiana law is much broader. It doesn’t just apply to individuals or religious minorities. It applies to, and I’m quoting here, ‘a partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint stock company, or an unincorporated association.’ So this obviously is a significant expansion of the law in terms of the way that it would apply”.

After debunking Pence’s claim that the state and federal law were identical, he moved on to address the Governor’s statement that the Indiana law applies only between government agencies and civilians:

“At the same time, it is also worth noting that the law in Indiana doesn’t just apply to interactions with the government. It also applies to private transactions as well, which means that this is a much more open-ended piece of legislation that could reasonably be used to try to justify discriminating against somebody because of who they love”.

The following day Indiana’s House and Senate both approved fixes to the RFRA ensuring it “does not tolerate discrimination against any class of Hoosier”.

Despite this amendment, the substantial opposition it faced as well as the fact that the governor held the original law signing in a private ceremony and refused to publish the names of the participants, could lead one to believe that the changes were made due to the immense civil, legal and economic backlash rather than an actual desire to protect the LGBT minority.

It is my understanding that the Democrats opposed to the fix as well claiming the suggested amendment is not sufficient.

This move also comes after it was revealed that some of the signing ceremony attendees and supporters were known anti-gay activists.

Eventually the Indiana House approved the changes 66-30 and the Senate followed suit with a 34-16 vote cast.

Despite the RFRA clarification, democrats and legal experts claim the fix does widely extend discrimination protection for LGBT.

Read our previous coverage of the law for more background info.

[via PoliticoUSA and The Indianapolis Star| Lead image based on: DonkeyHotey]

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Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels

Liron Samuels is a wildlife and commercial photographer based in Israel. When he isn’t waking up at 4am to take photos of nature, he stays awake until 4am taking photos of the night skies or time lapses. You can see more of his work on his website or follow him on Facebook.

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21 responses to “Indiana Amends Law Allowing Photographers to Refuse Same-Sex Clients After Being Blasted By the White House”

  1. Clayton Glover Avatar
    Clayton Glover

    So does the new law protect photographers or not? The article is not very clear.

    1. Wil Fry Avatar
      Wil Fry

      The law itself was not very clear to begin with. It was touted by supporters as a protection of religious freedom, something already protected by the first amendment. Many assumed it would allow businesses to discriminate against customers as long as they said the discrimination was based on their religion. The amended version is more clear that it will not allow such discrimination.

      It was never about photographers.

      1. s Avatar

        Why does everyone continue to call this discrimination? Isn’t it Possible today, to simply say ” No, I don’t wish to do work for you. ” Apparently people have been pushed so far down by lawyers, which, by the way, run our Planet now. We cannot even make our own decisions, as human beings. If I don’t like your business decisions, well then I will just have to get a Lawyer. What’s happening to Us? Where’s the Responsibility, and Respect for the others around us?

        1. mike Avatar

          You say “If I don’t like your business decisions.” Well, that is a perfectly good reason not to take a job. But this law is about “I hate your religion.”

          There is lawful and unlawful discrimination. If I decide not to take a job because I think the client is an idiot that will not listen to me, or doesn’t pay enough… that is lawful discrimination. If someone refuses because their religion says they should hate gays or Muslims or whatever… well that isn’t going to fly.

          It is the same thing as employment policies in the corporate world. The funny thing is there are so many reasons not to take a job or hire a person, even without this law you could manage it. Hell just put all kinds of Christian crap on your website or place of business and that would keep most of the people you hate out.

          1. Ron Lawrence Avatar
            Ron Lawrence

            “Christian crap”? Amazing. Respect doesn’t work both ways in your world?

        2. Wil Fry Avatar
          Wil Fry

          I didn’t say it was discrimination; I said “many assumed it would allow…” :-)

          But if it actually happened that someone could be refused service based purely on a group they belong to (woman, LGBT, non-white, Muslim, whatever), then that is — by definition — discrimination.

          1. Ron Lawrence Avatar
            Ron Lawrence

            In this case it isn’t the group that is being discriminated against. It is the ceremony.

          2. Wil Fry Avatar
            Wil Fry

            “In this case it isn’t the group that is being discriminated against. It is the ceremony.”

            Refusing service for a legitimate business reason has long been protected: scheduling impossibilities, they haven’t paid for previous service, etc. — but you have to be able to show that. These aren’t counted as discrimination. (Example: the ceremony is in the middle of a field and all my gear requires nearby electrical outlets.)

            I can refuse to serve anyone from any group (Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, white, black, etc.), if I have a business reason for it. But I don’t think that’s what the fuss was about on this bill. :-)

          3. Ron Lawrence Avatar
            Ron Lawrence

            I understand that, I’m just unclear about what it is about First Amendment rights people don’t understand.

  • Stephen Harper Avatar
    Stephen Harper

    Canada has had legal same-sex marriages for a decade now and the moral fabric here is just fine (still as polite as ever).

    No business has the right to discriminate for any reason, as photographers you’re providing a service for fee, period. If you cannot do that then you are not a professional.

    1. mike Avatar

      Canadians are too polite to discriminate, anyhow.

  • Mike Daley Avatar
    Mike Daley

    Too bad we as business owners can’t refuse service for any reason we see fit. It is reverse discrimination. Why do we have to be labeled as hate mongers simply because we disagree with a particular lifestyle?

    1. Trino Pam Avatar
      Trino Pam

      Lifestyle? I agree with you that freelancers should be able to refuse jobs because they have no time for it, or the pay is lousy. But a law that allows to refuse a specific part of the population it’s ridiculous & highly discriminating. And being gay is not a lifestyle or a choice. But that’s a whole new discussion.

      1. Ron Lawrence Avatar
        Ron Lawrence

        Why should a portion of the population be able to determine how I practice my religion? If the LGBT world wants my services so badly that they must force their choice of entrepreneur to trump my First Amendment rights, then who is being coerced? Should a Jewish baker be forced to bake a cake with a swastika on it? For whatever reason most people don’t understand the concept of freedom. In my opinion it is because that concept presents them with something they don’t want to take responsibility for: choice.

    2. Gordon Lewis Avatar
      Gordon Lewis

      It’s one thing to refuse service to random individuals based on their poor behavior or non-compliance with terms that apply to all (no shirt, no shoes, no service, etc.). It’s quite another to refuse service to a specific group of people when you have been granted a license by the government to serve the general public, who, after all, pay the taxes that support the police, fire department, street maintenance, and other services essential to your business.

      1. Ron Lawrence Avatar
        Ron Lawrence

        Oh, and I don’t pay taxes? Go ahead, force me to comply under threat of lawsuit, but my excellent work of doing your portrait will have problems like a broken down car, dead batteries or sudden sickness. You REALLY can’t find a photographer that wants the job? What this comes down to is making your choices trump mine.

    3. mike Avatar

      I bet you will be the first person out crying to the media when someone denies you service because they don’t like your religion.

      Oh right, you Christians are the overwhelming majority, so nobody can afford to discriminate against you. How convenient for you.

    4. johngwilk Avatar

      Lifestyle? If you could put your assumptions aside for a bit, you’d stand to learn a great deal by photographing a few same-sex marriage celebrations.

  • Joshua Probert Avatar
    Joshua Probert

    The original law probably did not protect photographers either. “Yeah, you could raise this as a defense that’s never worked before” is not a strong defense. If photography is an expressive art form, the first amendment ought to let you have completely free rein over who your clients are. You can’t compel speech under the first amendment.

  • Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    For anyone worried about photographers and business owners: Yes, you can still refuse work for any given reason you can invent in case you want to hide your prejudice.
    Conflict of schedule, unavailable on the date in question, equipment maintenance, undisclosed inability to perform the task, whatever.

    You do it just like others would do for clients they suspect might not be a good bet. It’s prejudice, you are fucking stupid for it, and if you are feeling unconfortable or inadequate to do the job you just give an excuse or negotiate it with the client directly.

    Nothing has changed here. Professionals refuse service all the time if they don’t see themselves fit for it.

    What you CANNOT do as a business is putting a plaque upfront stating something like “no colored allowed”, which is basically what this law is trying to pass.
    This law is basically trying to legalize discrimination on basis of “religious minority” bullcrap.
    No, you don’t get to discriminate legally using religion as basis.

    Let’s be very clear about this right here and now: Cases of businesses refusing service because they discriminated against minorities went up to court because of the discrimination itself. They caused moral damages, and one recently notorious case left a couple without wedding day photos because the photographer didn’t care enough to do his/her research better previously. The problem there was agreeing to do the job in the first place and then, when no other option was left for the client (on wedding day), refusing to do it because of his/her religion.

    We cannot label business owners and photographers as victims when they backed up from contracts they’ve agreed upon, just because when the event happened they refused to do it because of religious sensibilities (read prejudice). Because at that point it becomes legal discrimination. The business or photographer in case, at that point, is to be held responsible for moral damages, discrimination, breach of contract, and/or a whole sort of other problems that might come up from the refusal.

    You are a photographer or a business owner and don’t want to shoot same sex weddings and whatnot? Fine, don’t do it. Find a legal excuse for it. Do your research for every client, and act properly without discriminating.
    Just take your head out of your ass thinking you need a law that benefits you to the detriment of the rest of society. We’ll patiently wait for your kind to die off.

    1. Ron Lawrence Avatar
      Ron Lawrence

      Typical diatribe by someone that needs the force of law to make their choices for them. If I have a a disclaimer on my contract that states that I won’t do work that violates my religious ethics why would you want to force me to do your work? Why not just let the marketplace decide if I’m going to be able to stay in business? If you are correct, I’ll be in a new one of work soon. If I’m correct, no one will ever notice. What gives you the right to decide how I practice my religion or use the equipment I’ve invested so much in?