March 29, 2015 at 12:25 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Ind. governor seeks to ‘clarify’ religious freedom law

Mike Pence, Indiana, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on March 28, 2015, told the Indianapolis Star he is working with lawmakers to “clarify” his state’s religious freedom law that critics contend targets gays and lesbians. (Photo public domain)

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Saturday said he is working with lawmakers to “clarify” his state’s religious freedom law that critics contend allows business owners to discriminate against same-sex couples.

“I support religious liberty, and I support this law,” Pence told the Indianapolis Star in an interview two days after signing Senate Bill 101 or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. “But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there’s a way to clarify the intent of the law.”

Pence on Sunday reiterated this point during an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.”

“I was proud to sign it into law last week,” said the Republican governor. “I understand there’s been a tremendous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding around the bill. I’m determined to clarify this. This is about protecting the religious liberty of people of faith, families of faith around the country.”

Pence noted to Stephanopoulos that SB 101 is based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act that then-President Bill Clinton signed in 1993. The Republican governor refused to say whether a florist in Indiana could refuse service to a same-sex couple under his state’s new statute.

“This is not about discrimination,” said the governor. “This is about empowering people to confront government overreach.”

Reuters reported at least 2,000 people gathered in Indianapolis on Saturday to march against SB 101.

Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle earlier in the day announced in a statement that it has withdrawn its plans to expand its Indianapolis headquarters because Pence signed SB 101.

“We are putting the ‘Ford Building Project’ on hold until we fully understand the implications of the freedom restoration act on our employees, both current and future,” said Oesterle. “Angie’s List is open to all and discriminates against none and we are hugely disappointed in what this bill represents.”

The National Basketball Association, the Women’s National Basketball Association and their respective Indiana teams — the Indiana Pacers and the Indiana Fever — on Saturday issued a joint statement that said the teams and Bankers Life Fieldhouse where they play “have the strongest possible commitment to inclusion and non-discrimination on any basis.”

“Everyone is always welcome at Bankers Life Fieldhouse,” it reads. “That has always been the policy from the very beginning of the Simon family’s involvement and it always will be.”

The men’s final of the NCAA Tournament is scheduled to take place in Indianapolis on April 4-6.

NCAA President Mark Emmert on Thursday expressed concern over SB 101.

Eli Lilly, which is the largest publicly traded company in Indiana, on Friday criticized law. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest earlier in the day said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “doesn’t seem like it’s a step in the direction of equality and justice and liberty for all Americans.”

Pence told the Indianapolis Star that his decision to sign SB 101 into law was not about discrimination.

“Despite the irresponsible headlines that have appeared in the national media, this law is not about discrimination,” said the Republican governor. “If it was, I would have vetoed it.”

He told Stephanopoulos that he would not support efforts to add sexual orientation to Indiana’s anti-discrimination law.

Pence didn’t stop ‘dangerous bill’

Katie Blair, campaign manager of Freedom Indiana, a group opposed to SB 101, largely dismissed Pence’s comments.

“Governor Pence didn’t listen last week when he signed this discriminatory law into effect, and he’s still not listening to the growing chorus of criticism locally and nationally,” she said in a statement. “While we appreciate his recognition that he’s placed our state in peril, he’s obviously trying to have it both ways.”

“You can’t ‘clarify’ discrimination,” added Blair. “Indiana now has billions of dollars and thousands of jobs on the line, all because the governor wouldn’t stop this dangerous bill. He has a second chance to save our reputation for Hoosier hospitality, but he has to stand up and protect LGBT Hoosiers.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

Comments are closed
© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2020. All rights reserved.