Montana House Sends Religious Refusal Bill To Governor Gianforte’s Desk
RFRA bill similar to controversial Indiana law signed by then Gov. Mike Pence
Today, the Montana House passed passed anti-LGBTQ Senate Bill 215, an expansive religious refusal bill that could grant a license to discriminate against Montanans and visitors, including LGBTQ people, people of faith, and women, across a wide range of goods and services in the state. The bill now heads to Governor Greg Gianforte for signature or veto. In 2015, then-Governor of Indiana Mike Pence signed a similar piece of legislation into law that encouraged widespread discrimination from medical providers, businesses, government officials and taxpayer-funded entities. Mississippi also passed a RFRA in 2016. In the wake of Indiana, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a RFRA bill at the urging of Senators John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Mitt Romney, saying that it would have “unintended consequences” and divide the state. The Arizona bill faced serious business opposition, including Apple, AT&T, Delta Airlines, Major League Baseball, and the Super Bowl House Committee.
As reported by The 19th, this is among 36 anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” measures coursing through state legislatures as part of a national flood of anti-LGBTQ legislation and an effort by national, far-right extremist groups to sow fear and division for political gain. This represents the fourth anti-LGBTQ bill sent to a governor’s desk this session, and just the second RFRA bill. Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David issued the following statement in reaction to today’s House vote:
“Governor Gianforte was elected in part on the promise of bringing new businesses and industries to Montana. He should seriously consider vetoing this legislation, which would not just discriminate against LGBTQ people, but threaten to ward off the very businesses he is hoping to attract. In 2015, then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence saw a steep decline in revenue and loss of business that hurt Indiana. Montana could resign themselves to the same fate if this bill becomes law. The people of Montana believe in religious liberty and LGBTQ equality — those two values are not mutually exclusive. Rejecting this legislation is crucial for the equality of all and for the future of the state. In trying economic times and in the midst of a global pandemic, discrimination should not be on the agenda.”
Indiana passed a similar bill which cost them $60m in lost revenue
- The backlash from the business community and voters was swift, and Pence soon became a national disgrace. Pence’s discriminatory bill had enormous consequences for Indiana’s economy and reputation. Indianapolis’s non-profit tourism agency estimated that in their city alone, Pence’s anti-LGBTQ bill cost up to 12 conventions and $60 million in lost revenue
- The State of Indiana had to spend $365k of taxpayer money on a PR firm to help dampen the backlash and attempt to restore the reputation of Indiana
- A reported by the Associated Press detailed that “12 out-of-state groups were surveyed and all said that the state’s controversial religious objections law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere.”
Voters strongly disapproved of Indiana’s religious refusal law and punished Pence for signing it
- And polling conducted by HRC after the 2015 fight found that 75 percent of Hoosiers said the law was bad for the state’s economy, and 70 percent of those surveyed said they opposed it.
- Following the embarrassing fallout, his approval ratings tanked with voters and Pence decided not to run for re-election. Yet, his appalling record on LGBTQ equality won him a place on the ticket with Trump as his running mate. Now, Pence has been working behind the scenes at the White House to push his own disgraced values onto the national stage.
- A poll conducted by the Indianapolis tourism department showed that the city was still facing the lingering repercussions of the reputational harm it incurred as a result of the legislation a year later
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organizations working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.