Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) said critics of Indiana’s anti-LGBT bill should be grateful the controversial legislation isn’t as draconian as some laws overseas.
The Republican freshman senator appeared Wednesday on CNN’s “Situation Room,” where he said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act did not promote discrimination against LGBT Americans, reported Think Progress.
“I also think it’s important that we have a sense of perspective about our priorities,” Cotton told host Wolf Blitzer. “In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay.”
Cotton said the bill differed little from an identically named federal law signed in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton, although Indiana’s law extends religious protections from discrimination claims to privately held, for-profit businesses rather than individuals.
He said critics of the controversial legislation signed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence should focus on human rights abuses committed by a country that many GOP lawmakers want to bomb.
“They’re currently imprisoning an American preacher for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in Iran,” Cotton said. “We should focus on the most important priorities our country faces right now, and I would say that a nuclear armed Iran, given the threat that it poses to the region and to our interests in the region and American citizens, is the most important thing that we’d be focused on.”
He said the federal law, which generally protects individual religious rights against government infringement, had not led to widespread discrimination – although Indiana’s law deals more specifically with claims between private entities.
“At the same time, I think it’s a legitimate question to ask whether a woman who teaches piano and then, on her free time, makes extra money by playing pianos at weddings, if she strongly believes that gay marriage is not consistent with her personal conscious beliefs, should be compelled by law to perform at a gay marriage,” Cotton said. “I think that’s a reasonable question to ask, and I don’t think that we should call that woman bigoted or hateful or that we should impose criminal or even civil fines on her.”
He again misrepresented the differences between the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Indiana’s new legislation.
“I would say anybody who thinks that these laws are empowering that kind of discrimination are either misinformed or they’re misrepresenting the facts,” Cotton said. “That simply hasn’t been the case in the 22 years since Bill Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
Watch Cotton’s remarks posted online by Think Progress Video: