Governor Pence and Legislators Still Trying to ‘Clarify’ New Religious Freedom Bill

Mike Pence is pictured. | AP Photo
Mike Pence is pictured. | AP Photo

Republican lawmakers in Indiana promised Monday to amend a religious liberties bill that critics have labeled as anti-gay, bowing to protests that have rapidly spread to several other states considering similar measures.

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) said the legislature would act as soon as this week to “clarify” the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which grants individuals and businesses legal grounds to defend themselves against claims of discrimination. The fix, Bosma said, would make clear that the law does not allow people to discriminate against gays, as critics contend.

Opponents of the measure say the fix suggested by Bosma and other Republicans is vague and probably insufficient. Meanwhile, criticism of the act, signed into law last week by Gov. Mike Pence (R), continued to mount.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook condemned the law in an op-ed in The Washington Post. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) wrote a letter to the Indianapolis Star inviting business leaders troubled by the law to move to Virginia. The president of the NCAA hinted that the Indiana-based athletic organization may stop holding major events there. And the rock band Wilco canceled a May 7 show in Indianapolis.

In addition, the Star devoted its entire front page Tuesday to an editorial about the law under the headline “FIX THIS NOW.”

The pressure was reverberating in other states, where some GOP leaders postponed consideration of their own religious freedom laws or disavowed them outright.

In Georgia, lawmakers canceled a hearing set for Monday morning on their version of the bill. In Arkansas, lawmakers debated tweaking a bill that passed the Senate last week, perhaps limiting its reach. And in North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) said he was not inclined to sign a bill working its way through the statehouse. “What is the problem they’re trying to solve?” he asked Monday on WFAE’s “Charlotte Talks” radio program. The bill, he said, would “make no sense.”

The debate injected a divisive new issue into the 2016 presidential campaign, presenting Republican hopefuls with a difficult choice: publicly back Pence on an issue that threatens to hurt the GOP among the majority of Americans who support gay rights, or side with the party’s business wing against the law and risk angering base conservatives.

In recent days, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), former Texas governor Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have all spoken approvingly of the law; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been more circumspect. Likely Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has criticized it.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post
Sandhya Somashekhar and Mark Berman

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