NASW chapters came out vigorously against legislation in Indiana and California that would make it OK to discriminate against people from the LGBT community.
In Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence on March 26 signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would have allowed businesses to deny service to people if business owners believed such an action violated their religious beliefs.
Several religious organizations and businesses, including Apple, the NCAA and the Disciples of Christ, immediately condemned the law, which critics said could be used to discriminate against LGBT people. There was also a nationwide call for a boycott of Indiana if the law stood.
NASW’s Indiana Chapter also came out against the law.
“NASW-Indiana has stood with this opposition as the RFRA moved through our statehouse, and we continue to do so now,” the chapter said in a statement. “We strongly feel that RFRA does not benefit our state, nor does it uphold the values of the social work profession.”
The NASW New York City LGBT Committee also released a statement against the law, saying it violated basic human rights.
“The problem is that there are no protections for LGBT people against discrimination in Indiana,” the statement read. “A business owner can deny service to an LGBT person if they feel that serving that person would violate their religious beliefs.”
Pence bowed to the opposition and worked with lawmakers to add an amendment to the law so businesses could not discriminate against LGBT people or others. NASW-Indiana Executive Director Mark Fairchild, MSW, said the chapter was pleased by the amendment because “it addressed some of our concerns with the law.”
However, NASW-Indiana officials are concerned that there still is not a statewide law to protect the rights of LGBT people.
Meanwhile, in California, Orange County lawyer Matt McLaughlin is trying to get enough signatures to put an initiative on the ballot that calls for penalties against LGBT people, including the death sentence for participating in same-sex acts.
The NASW California Chapter and NASW New York City LGBT Committee have issued statements condemning the ballot initiative. NASW California also supports California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ efforts to have courts reject the initiative.
“While there are those that argue this is free speech allowed under the constitution, it is also hate speech and could incite violence against the LGBT community,” the NASW California Chapter said in a statement. “As such, it is no longer free speech and should be barred.”