Indiana legislative leaders on Thursday morning introduced changes to the state’s religious freedom law that would prohibit businesses from discriminating against gays and lesbians.
Leaders introduced a conference committee report that would alter Indiana code to state that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act cannot be used to defend discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The report states that the bill does not allow a “provider” to deny services, employment, or housing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It also states that the religious freedom law cannot be used as a legal defense for such discrimination.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) made it clear in the conference committee meeting Thursday morning that the bill does not establish sexual orientation or gender identity as a protected class under the state’s civil rights laws.
The altered law as proposed would also exempt churches and religious nonprofits. According to the conference committee report, the term “provider” does not include “church or other nonprofit religious organization or society, including an affiliated school” or priests, rabbis, ministers and other church leaders.
Read the conference committee report below:
During a press conference announcing that leaders had reached an agreement to clarify the law, Bosma said that the proposed changes to the law make a “strong statement to assure that every Hoosier’s rights are protected, and won’t be infringed upon.”
When asked why lawmakers did not propose making sexual orientation and gender identity a protected class under civil rights law, Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long (R) said that they did not have enough time left in the legislation session to address that policy change.
Long said on Thursday that discussion about making sexual orientation and gender identity a protected class is “likely” during the next legislative session.
Following backlash against the religious freedom law and concerns that it would permit discrimination against gays and lesbians, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) asked the legislature to clarify that the law does not allow discrimination.