While we were all tallying up all the bonkers things happening in Florida, Indiana had a pretty crazy week of lawmaking. Look at what's happening in the Hoosier state:
“Religious Freedom” law would basically allow anti-gay discrimination
Governor Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act law on on Thursday, shrugging off concerns that the legislation — which could allow business owners not to serve customers with whom they have a beef over religion — is discriminating. He called that interpretation a “misunderstanding.” The Indianapolis Star reports the governor said “this bill is not about discrimination… and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it." Critics see the law as another attempt to strip LGBT residents of their rights, following a legal tussle over gay marriage in the state last year.
Freedom Indiana, a group which fought vehemently against the legislation, said in reaction to the law’s passing that “this is a sad day for Indiana,” and referred to the bill as “a license to discriminate.” The new law, which seems pretty anti-capitalist in nature, has succeeded in robbing Indiana of in- and out-of-state dollars. Salesforce.com, a San Francisco-based tech company, has cancelled all of its events in Indiana in protest of the law. The city's public sector took a similar stance — Politico reports that Mayor Mayor Edwin Lee barred all publicly-funded travel from San Francisco to the state. And before Pence passed the bill, gaming convention Gen Con said it would relocate out of Indiana if he moved forward with the law. Now, it seems, the organization is sticking to its word. The list goes on.
Plus, the new law earned the state some serious side-eye from the likes of Apple’s Tim Cook, George Takei, Hillary Clinton.
Shut it down, Indiana.
Drug use contributes to an HIV-fueled public health emergency
On Thursday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence declared a state of emergency in one county over an HIV epidemic. So far, 79 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Scout County this year, CNN reports. The infections have been tied to intravenous injection of prescription painkiller Opana, meth and heroin.
In an attempt to get the outbreak under control, Pence temporarily reversed the the state’s ban on needle exchange programs. Needle-exchange advocates say that this reaction could lead to public embrace — or at least, consideration — of needle exchange programs as a way of curtailing the spread of infectious disease. A silver lining, sort of.
In 2016, lawmakers will consider installing “baby boxes” throughout the state
If proposed legislation passes the state Senate, Indiana would be the first U.S. state to implement a practice already used in several countries — that of setting up “baby boxes” for unwanted babies. The logic is that mothers, already protected under a safe haven program allowing parents to turn newborns over to state care without ramification, would be more likely to put their baby in a box than to give it to a person. “The sheer anxiety of the face-to-face interaction required by an existing safe haven may cause some troubled parents to refuse to utilize the program,” bill author Casey Cox told Agence-France Presse. The boxes would be equipped with air holes, temperature control that would prevent the baby from freezing to death (provided the box lid is closed) and would trigger a 911 call. They sound nice, but maybe not quite “leave a baby in this box” nice.
— BelieversStandUnited (@BSUnetwork) March 14, 2015
Opponents of the bill say it could prevent mothers from getting medical attention or support if they need it. Plus, a malfunctioning baby box could put the child’s life in danger.
On Wednesday, lawmakers agreed to revisit the law next year — after the Indiana health department takes a closer look at the bill.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.