In­di­ana Law­mak­ers Pro­pose Change to Re­li­gious-Free­dom Law

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL - By CHRIS GOOD

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.

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