By Charles Pierce

We should pause here for a moment to congratulate Indiana Governor Mike Pence (photo above), who, on Thursday, demonstrated exactly why political writer Matthew Yglesias once called him a fool who deserves to be laughed at, and why the late, great Indiana political gadfly Doghouse Riley regularly referred to him as “The Choirboy.”

Convening a private meeting for the purpose, Pence signed something popularly called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that essentially gives Indiana businesses the freedom to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Pence then went all over the local media demonstrating that a stupid man signing a stupid law can defend it even more stupidly.

First, he told a radio show that he couldn’t come up with a single example whereby a private business had been injured in any way by catering to gay or lesbian customers. Then he tried to justify what he did by saying that this law did not discriminate because it merely mirrored the ill-conceived federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act — which it certainly does not, because the federal law is silent on transactions between private parties. (And, anyway, the federal RFRA, signed in 1993 by President Clinton, was designed primarily to get Native Americans out from under a Supreme Court decision that essentially forbade them from using peyote as a sacrament.) What Pence did do, of course, is guarantee that next week’s Final Four is going to be a shit show of the very first order.

Even if you’re in favor of the law, and shame on you if you are, Pence couldn’t have waited two weeks before bringing the circus to town? It may cost him the national meeting of the Disciples of Christ, and mammoth tech company Salesforce already has canceled plans to hold events in Indiana. Random celebrities have gone up the wall, and even Mark Emmert of the NCAA bestirred himself to say the right thing. And when you’ve ceded the moral high ground to the NCAA, you have drifted far from the pack indeed.

“We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

He said the NCAA will “work diligently” to ensure competitors and visitors at next week’s Final Four are not “negatively impacted by this bill.” Emmert also said the organization, which is based in Indianapolis, will “closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

Thanks again, Governor. We are all so very grateful.

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