Indiana lawmakers send anti-LGBT religious objection bill to governor

Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis.

Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis.

Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis.

Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS — A religious objection bill that opponents say would legalize discrimination against LGBT people cleared the Indiana Senate on Tuesday, positioning the state to become the first to enact such a change this year ahead of an expected U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

The measure would prohibit state and local laws that “substantially burden” the ability of people – including businesses and associations – to follow their religious beliefs. Senators voted 40-10 along party lines to support the Republican-backed bill and advance it to GOP Gov. Mike Pence, who has said he will sign it into law.

Some national gay-rights groups say lawmakers in Indiana and about a dozen other states proposed the change as a way of essentially granting a state-sanctioned waiver for discrimination as the nation’s highest court prepares to mull the gay marriage question.

But supporters argue the bill merely seeks to prevent the government from compelling people to provide services, such as catering or photography, for same-sex weddings or other activities that they find objectionable on religious grounds.

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Democratic senators picked up on criticism of the measure from some companies and business groups that it could cast Indiana as an unwelcoming place and make it more difficult to attract conventions and top employees. They pointed out that the Senate vote was coming a week before Indianapolis will be hosting the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four.

“Indiana is putting a big sign outside our door saying ‘We discriminate’,” said Democratic Sen. Mark Stoops of Bloomington.

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