Indiana Lawmakers, Governor Approve Religious Law Changes
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has approved changes to new law that sparked boycotts of the state amid fears that it would allow discrimination against lesbians and gays.
The amendment to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act released Thursday prohibits service providers from using the law as a legal defense for refusing to provide services, goods, facilities or accommodations.
It also bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or United States military service.
Pence called for changes to clarify the law Tuesday in response to an uproar fueled by discrimination concerns. The law takes effect July 1.
Two of Indiana's largest business groups are praising changes to the state's new law.
Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said Thursday that Indiana "has suffered tremendously'' in the past week amid an uproar over suggestions that the new law could allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Brinegar says the proposed changes that would prohibit service providers from discriminating against gays and lesbians are "what businesses and individuals from around the state, country and world needed to hear.''
Indy Chamber President and CEO Michael Huber called the proposed changes "a major step in the right direction in efforts to protect the rights of all Hoosiers.''
But he says the state still has "much to do to strengthen non-discrimination policies across the state.''
Two gay rights groups say the proposed changes reduce concerns that gays and lesbians could face discrimination, but lawmakers must take other steps to broaden those protections.
Freedom Indiana campaign manager Katie Blair says the changes "represent an important step forward'' and reduce the threat to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers.
But Blair says statewide anti-discrimination laws for the LGBT community are still needed and without them "discrimination is still legal'' in most of Indiana.
National gay rights advocacy group Lambda Legal calls the proposal "far less than this situation requires.''
Jennifer Pizer, the group's legal policy director, says lawmakers now need to "complete the fix by actually providing those basic protections that LGBT people need to be equal and safe'' in Indiana.