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March 30, 2015 Practice Points

Indiana Passes RFRA

In reaction to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act being signed into law, an unprecedented national outcry has ensued.

By Nancy Marcus – March 30, 2015

On March 26, 2015, Indiana became the twentieth state to enact a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), mirroring the federal RFRA law that requires strict scrutiny, i.e., a higher level of scrutiny than required under First Amendment analysis, when religious freedoms are substantially burdened.

In reaction to Indiana’s RFRA being signed into law, an unprecedented national outcry has ensued, in part because Indiana does not have statewide civil-rights protections for LGBT individuals that might otherwise shield them from discrimination.

However, a number of Indiana localities do have such protections. Thus, Indiana and the 19 other states are all similarly positioned. It remains to be seen how state RFRA laws may be used by religious people to shield themselves from laws they find morally objectionable; whether in the case of Obamacare (the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby case affirming federal RFRA exemptions against birth-control requirements) or in the case of LGBT rights violations (in the context of state or local civil rights ordinances, marriage laws, or otherwise).

Keywords: litigation, civil rights, RFRA, LGBT, First Amendment

— Nancy Marcus, LL.M., S.J.D., Assistant Professor of Law, Indiana Tech Law School

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