In spite of a revision to a controversial Indiana law touted as a means to protect religious freedom, the state still permits discrimination against gays, Professor David S. Cohen said during an interview with MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry that aired April 4.
Revised language in Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which ignited a national firestorm over gay rights, specifies that the law can’t be used as the basis of discrimination, Cohen said.
“But the backdrop of Indiana law, just like the law throughout almost 30 states throughout the country and federal law, is that discrimination based on sexual orientation is perfectly lawful,” Cohen said. “The real shame of the coverage and the outcry of this week is that people have missed that fact.”
Despite numerous state laws permitting gay marriage and an expected U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, Cohen said, discrimination persists.
“In a lot of states, the couple who gets married on Sunday can come into work on Monday and put a picture (of a same-sex spouse) on their desk and be fired for putting a picture on their desk,” Cohen said, noting that marriage equality does not prevent discrimination against gays by employers, landlords, schools or in public accommodations.
The controversy over religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas pushed from the limelight a worthy but unsuccessful bill in North Dakota to affirmatively protect gay rights, Cohen said.
“All of that attention should have been focused on North Dakota,” he said.
During the 90-minute appearance, Cohen also discussed the recent convictions of Atlanta teachers in a test-fixing scandal and President Obama’s commutation of prison sentences for some drug offenders.
Portions of Cohen’s appearance can be viewed in the following segments: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five.