Just recently, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana signed into law a piece of legislation that would legalize discrimination towards certain groups of people, including that of the LGBT community, if a business or service provider can prove that making a transaction with a certain demographic would bring undue hardships on their religious practices. While discussions of this bill have widely proliferated online these past few weeks, I noticed that these dialogues have missed one obvious element of this bill: the message that the RFRA is telling young people.
As part of the past decade of urban revival efforts, major cities around the world have begun a battle to recruit young people to come to their cities. It has become clear that young people are no longer seen as beneficiaries of public programs or a periphery figure in society, but rather has stakeholders with potential to improve a city's economy. A 2005 report by CEO for Cities noted a strong correlation between entrepreneurship and creativity with young adults, particularly those that fall between the ages of 25 and 34. With cities around the world attempting to replicate the success of the Silicon Valley, it is a no brainer that municipalities around the world, not just the US, are trying to reorient its strategies in order to capture this flighty population and strengthen its job and population base
Hip, college-educated young people often look for a location that closely matches their personality, before they find a job. They look for savvy, environmentally-friendly and open communities that both respect and uphold human rights. A 2010 study by Gallup reveals that "openness" is the number two priority for people when it comes to community attachment. That means that as a community becomes more tolerant and diverse, so does an individual's attachment to his or her community. With that said, it is baffling to see why Indiana lawmakers would make a decision that would not only stagnate, but reverse progress towards equality.
While Indiana has already amended the RFRA, the damage has already been done. This was made clear with the number of companies that threatened to withdraw its relations with the state if the RFRA is not repealed. It is also clear that the original intentions of this bill was not directed towards minority religions such as the Amish group, but rather to the LGBT demographic. The state has already sent a clear message to young people around the United States that Indiana is not a safe or open place. It is strange that human rights and dignity are not already common elements across a developed country such as the United States. Nonetheless, Indiana's mistake is a warning to other lawmakers attempting to pursue the same path. There are countless cities around the United States, and young people will flock to wherever that embraces the new paradigms of progress: inclusion and sustainability.