An Indiana state trial court judge has ruled that several conservative family advocacy groups lack standing to challenge Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act which expressly excludes a free exercise right to discriminate because of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Indiana Family Institute, Indiana Family Action, and American Family Association of Indiana had filed suit to attack the exclusion. Still, no active cases were being decided on the issue.
For a court to decide on an issue, the party bringing the suit must have a right that they are actively defending. Otherwise, the case is not “ripe” for adjudication. The courts do not make decisions based on hypothetical situations that might arise, even if a law is on the books.
In 2015, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law, which would, in general, protect the free exercise of religion. After LGBT rights groups and other organizations objected that it provided a pretext for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the law was amended the following month to exclude sexual orientation and gender identity. (WIBC website covers this history.)
The conservative groups filed a complaint asking the court to provide injunctive relief to prevent its enforcement against people of faith whose ordinary conduct might be considered discriminatory under the state RFRA and several local ordinances.