Indiana Lawmakers Propose Change to Religious-Freedom Law
Indiana top two legislators, both Republicans, announced Thursday morning a “fix” to their state’s controversial religious-freedom law—a change that would preclude Indiana businesses from denying services to gays or lesbians.
“What was intended as a message of inclusion was interpreted as a message of exclusion, especially for the LGBT community,” Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma told reporters at a 9 a.m. news conference. “Nothing could have been further from the truth, but it was clear the perception had to be addressed.”
The proposed update, as released by Indiana GOP lawmakers online, states that the controversial religiousfreedom law does not allow any business to deny service to any customer—including on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The new language will still have to be approved by Indiana’s legislature and signed by the state’s Republican governor, Mike Pence, before it goes into effect. Pence this week announced he would support changing the law. Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long appeared with business leaders from Indiana, claiming a broad agreement on how to change the law. The two extended an apology to citizens—not for the law they passed, but for how it was interpreted.
“I had a chance to sit down with Greg Louganis for about an hour, just visiting,” Bosma said of the Olympic diver who is openly gay. “He shared with me the personal hurt that he felt when he heard the incorrect message that Indiana supported discrimination.”
Bosma said he “extended an apology to him, not for actions taken, but for messages received. I personally extend that apology to anyone who received that same message.” Signed by Pence last week, the state’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” states that a higher threshold must be met before a law is upheld where it infringes on the free exercise of religion by people or businesses -- between those private entities or where the government is involved.
Both critical gay-rights activists and supportive social conservatives have said the law would mean Christian wedding vendors would not be required to serve gay couples getting married. A wave of national backlash ensued, including wide condemnation from large businesses and organizations based in or hosting events in Indiana.