Indiana lawmakers announce proposed religious law changes

Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act debate. (Photo/WISH)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH/MEDIA GENERAL) – Gov. Mike Pence gave lawmakers until Friday to fix the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and they gathered at the Statehouse Thursday to make an announcement on their progress.

Lawmakers were joined by representatives from major Indiana companies, including Pacers Vice Chairman Jim Morris, former Indianapolis mayor and Eli Lilly VP Bart Peterson and CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud Scott McCorkle to clarify the law following what Gov. Pence called a tough week in the Hoosier state.

“Indiana does not tolerate discrimination among any class of Hoosiers,” Rep. Brian Bosma, R-House Speaker, said Thursday morning. “We value each and every Hoosier.”

Bosma led the press conference, and stated that lawmakers were presenting what they believe to be “a very strong statement.”

Here’s a look at the new language being proposed. There appeared great confidence that this language would pass quickly.

“This chapter does not:

(1) authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service;

(2) establish a defense to a civil action or criminal prosecution for refusal by a provider to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service; or

(3) negate any rights available under the Constitution of the State of Indiana.”

The proposed law goes on to say that a “provider” does not include religious organizations, schools or individuals such as priests or rabbis while they are engaged in a religious activity.

Gov. Pence earlier this week addressed the international attention Indiana has received as a result of the passage of RFRA, and called some of the comments about Indiana deeply offensive.

When he was asked how Indiana would earn back the state’s good name Pence said, “We will fix this and move forward. That’s what Hoosiers do.”
Indiana Senate President Pro Temp David Long, R-Fort Wayne, stood by Hoosier hospitality during Thursday’s announcement.

“Hoosier people are some of the most kind and thoughtful people you can meet. Hoosier hospitality is not just a saying, it’s a way of life,” Long said. “Religious liberty and individual liberty can co-exist and were here to prove that today.

Reaction has already come quickly. The NCAA released a statement supporting the change and the Indy Rainbow Chamber of Commerce said they applaud this “FIRST step toward making this a better law.”

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