[Huffington Post] WASHINGTON — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a revised version of a “religious freedom” law Thursday, hoping to quiet national criticism that the original law would have allowed businesses to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.
“Over the past week this law has become a subject of great misunderstanding and controversy across our state and nation,” said Pence in a statement Thursday evening. “However we got here, we are where we are, and it is important that our state take action to address the concerns that have been raised and move forward.”
Indiana’s original Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Pence signed last week, would allow any individual or corporation to cite religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party. But the law was written so broadly that many businesses and LGBT advocates worried it would open the door to widespread discrimination.
Pence and the GOP-controlled legislature quickly faced criticism both from within the state and around the country. Several groups withdrew their events from the state in protest, and Angie’s List — an Indianapolis-based business run by a former Republican staffer — canceled a planned $40 expansion of its headquarters. Businesses like Apple and Marriott condemned the law, and some states and localities even signed orders boycotting Indiana.
Pence maintained that the law did not allow discrimination against anyone, although he said he would back changes to the legislation to clear up any “mischaracterization.” The General Assembly passed the new version of RFRA Thursday afternoon.
The revised law explicitly bars a business from denying services to someone on the basis of categories including sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the end, the RFRA “fix” didn’t really make anyone happy.
While many LGBT groups were relieved that the potentially harmful effects of RFRA were addressed, they were disappointed that the state did not go further and simply repeal the measure. And the new language does nothing to expand LGBT rights from where they were prior to Pence’s signing of the RFRA; LGBT discrimination is still legal in Indiana, since it is not one of the states with comprehensive protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The changes proposed by the Legislature represent a step in the right direction that takes us closer to achieving our goal of passing the Fairness for All Hoosiers Act,” said Freedom Indiana Campaign Manager Katie Blair, referring to a proposed measure would protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. “Today, the harm has been lessened, but we have not reached the day when LGBT Hoosiers can be assured that they can live their lives with freedom from discrimination.” Continue Reading
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