Amid Controversy, Pence Backs Down on Anti-Gay Law

AP

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) said Tuesday that he wanted to see legislation on his desk this week clarifying that the controversial religious freedom bill he signed into law did not allow businesses to deny service to anyone.

Pence made the announcement at a widely televised press conference the same day that the Indianapolis Star ran a front-page editorial urging state lawmakers to change the legislation.

“After much reflection and in consultation with leadership of the General Assembly I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses to deny services to anyone,” Pence said at a press conference on Tuesday. “Let me say that again. I think it would be helpful and I’d like to see on my desk before the end of this week legislation that is added to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that makes it clear that this law does not deny services against anyone.”

Earlier in the week top Republicans in the state legislature said they would look to add a clarification to the law.

“We want to make it clear that Indiana’s open for business. We want to make it clear that Hoosier hospitality is not a slogan, it’s a way of life,” Pence said.

Pence repeatedly pointed to Democrats backing the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. But Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) earlier in the day, argue that the Indiana law is far more aggressive than the national law.

Pence stressed that the law, which bars Indiana from forcing businesses to serve customers based on religious objections to sexual orientation, currently does not allow discrimination.

“The intent of the law, when President Clinton signed it, the intent of the law when I signed it, was to give the courts in our state the highest level of scrutiny in cases where people feel that their religious liberty is being infringed on by government action.”

He said a clarification was meant to clear the misperceptions about the law.

“I believe it would be appropriate to make it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to discriminate against anyone,” Pence said.

Asked if it should be legal in Indiana to discriminate against gays or lesbians, Pence said he didn’t agree with any kind of discrimination.

“I don’t support discrimination against gays, or lesbians of anyone else. I abhor discrimination. I want to say this: No one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are, who they love, or what they believe,” Pence said.

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