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what’s the deal with indiana’s religious freedom law?

Culture

what it could mean for lgbtq rights

All eyes are on the Midwest this week: Indiana and its governor, Mike Pence, are drawing the ire of everyone from Tim Cook to the NCAA and faced with threats of boycott all because of their new religious freedom law, SB 101. There's nothing new about religious freedom bills in the US; in fact, we've had one as a federal law since 1993, when it was passed near-unanimously in both the House and the Senate. Nineteen different states have adopted their own Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. Indiana's law, though, is different: Thanks to its wording, it might allow for legally sanctioned discrimination. 
 
What is it: 
In theory, Indiana's Senate Bill 101 is designed to protect individual religious freedom in a pretty standard way. The text of the law explains that it's meant to "[prohibit] a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion." However, the Indiana bill has a few unique elements that mean it can be applied more broadly than its similar counterparts. The law contains unusual language, saying, "A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding." In other words, it can be applied to claims of religious freedom being violated in interactions between private citizens. It also defines a religious exercise as "[including] any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief." There also isn't a definition of "religion" in the bill, which means that the grounds for what freedoms are being protected is vastly broad and general.  
 
What does this mean:
Ultimately, this means is that Indiana's law is much broader in what it claims to protect than others like it, including the federal RFRA—so broad that it's possible it could be construed as taking legal precedence over human rights ordinances meant to prevent discrimination against marginalized people. Indiana also doesn't have any anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people on the books, nor does their RFRA include any language to exclude discrimination. With all these factors combined, someone could try to use SB 101 as a license to discriminate.
 
What's going on now: 
The response to the law was swift and decisive. Almost immediately, big names like Salesforce and Apple were speaking out against the law, Salesforce even going so far as to cancel any corporate travel to Indiana so their employees wouldn't have to risk legally sanctioned discrimination. Even religious organizations like Disciples of Christ publicly opposed it. Organizations and individuals that had stimulated Indiana's economy for years, like GenCon, began talking publicly about relocating elsewhere. The NCAA expressed interest in hosting the Final Four elsewhere in the future. Indiana's own board of tourism called the move bad for Indiana as the state quickly became a national headline. Indiana's governor, Mike Pence, only made things worse when he appeared on This Week and refused to answer a question about whether a hypothetical florist would be able to refuse service to gay customers. He later published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal insisting that SB 101 wouldn't allow anyone to legally discriminate, and that the law had been "grossly misconstrued" and maligned by the press. 
 
Now, mere hours after publishing his letter, Pence is changing his tune. While he maintains that the law is anything but discriminatory, he's now committed to "clarifying" it: Earlier today Pence called a press conference to say, "It would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone." While those who have called for a full repeal aren't likely to get their wish, it does appear that Indiana will add language to SB 101 that makes it clear the law doesn't protect the denial of goods or services. Pence has repeatedly stated that he's not interested in creating a separate law to protect the rights LGBT citizens, which would be a stronger legislative approach to preventing discrimination in the name of SB 101 or otherwise.
 
So, how does this affect America? 
The fact of Indiana's (partial) turnaround on this issue isn't unprecedented. Extremely broad religious freedom bills have faced backlash before, like Arizona's SB 1062, which looked a lot like Indiana's SB 101 before it was vetoed by Arizona's governor, Jan Brewer. What is different this time around is the nature of the backlash. Since SB 1062, Tim Cook has come out and becoame the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company; and Marc Benioff of Salesforce has worked with the queer women's organization Lesbians Who Tech. We've seen significant changes in spheres besides business as well, with religious organizations like the Presbyterian Church voting to approve same-sex marriage. Majorly influential institutions are increasingly seeing issues of LGBT rights and safety as more than just a social issue; that LGBT people are their customers, employees, and colleagues, and that what happens to them affects the organization on every level.
 
Indiana's riveting legal drama is just one example of the difference that kind of investment can make. It will be fascinating to see whether this kind of institutional activism could extend to LGBTQ issues less popular than marriage equality and anti-discrimination, and what kind of impact might be possible in the long term.

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Credits:
Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.