Indiana governor Mike Pence signs anti-LGBT ‘religious freedom’ bill into law

Indiana governor Mike Pence (seated) at a private ceremony to sign a religious freedom bill into law, Thursday, March 26, 2015.

Indiana governor Mike Pence (seated) at a private ceremony to sign a religious freedom bill into law, Thursday, March 26, 2015. Indiana governor's office

Indiana governor Mike Pence (seated) at a private ceremony to sign a religious freedom bill into law, Thursday, March 26, 2015.Indiana governor's office

Indiana governor Mike Pence (seated) at a private ceremony to sign a religious freedom bill into law, Thursday, March 26, 2015.

Updated: 1:15 p.m. EDT

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday signed into law a religious objections bill that some convention organizers and business leaders have opposed amid concern it could allow discrimination against gay people.

Indiana is the first state to enact such a change this year among about a dozen where such proposals have been introduced. The measure would prohibit state and local laws that “substantially burden” the ability of people – including businesses and associations – to follow their religious beliefs.

Pence, a Republican, backed the bill as it moved through the Legislature and spoke at a Statehouse rally last month that drew hundreds of supporters. The governor signed the bill in a private ceremony.

Pence said in a statement Thursday that the bill ensures “religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law.”

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” he said.

Reaction to the decision was swift and divided.

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Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter praised the new law, saying it would give abortion opponents legal recourse if they are pressured to support the procedure. The organization circulated an online petition to thank Pence for signing the bill.

Freedom Indiana, which led last year’s successful fight against efforts to add a gay marriage ban to the state constitution, called it “a sad day for Indiana,” saying Pence and lawmakers ignored concerns of thousands of Indiana residents.

“We made it clear that this law will only be used to harm other Hoosiers, and that’s not the Indiana way. The lawmakers didn’t listen. The governor didn’t listen,” the group said in a statement.

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