Indiana House OKs sweeping religious freedom bill that allows anti-LGBT discrimination

Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis.

Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis.

Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis.

Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana House approved by a wide margin Monday a proposal strengthening protections for religious objections in state law that opponents say could provide legal cover for discrimination against LGBT people.

Republicans cast all the “yes” votes as House members voted 63-31 to support the bill that would prohibit any state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs and has a definition of a “person” that includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Groups supporting the measure say it would prevent the government from compelling people to provide services such as catering or photography for same-sex weddings or other activities they find objectionable.

House Majority Leader Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, said the bill would give courts guidance on how to decide cases involving competing constitutional rights pertaining to religious freedom and discrimination.

“No one in this General Assembly is advocating a bill that would allow people to discriminate,” he said. “Everybody wants the opportunity for people to practice the rights they’re supposed to have in this country.”

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National gay rights groups consider the Indiana bill among the most sweeping of several similar proposals introduced this year in more than a dozen states as conservatives brace for a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

“What these politicians are peddling as ‘religious liberty’ is not real religious liberty,” said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund. “This law is an outright recipe for discrimination and persecution.”

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