Indiana, Arkansas look to move forward following religious objections uproar

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signs a reworked religious freedom bill into law after it passed in the House at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, April 2, 2015.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signs a reworked religious freedom bill into law after it passed in the House at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, April 2, 2015. Brian Chilson, AP

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signs a reworked religious freedom bill into law after it passed in the House at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, April 2, 2015. Brian Chilson, AP

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signs a reworked religious freedom bill into law after it passed in the House at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, April 2, 2015.

Two states roiled by criticism over new religious objections laws are looking to move forward after taking different approaches to changing the legislation to ease concerns about discrimination.

The governors of Indiana and Arkansas signed bills Thursday that lawmakers hoped would quiet the national uproar over whether the laws offered a legal defense for discrimination against gays.

For Arkansas, the changes requested by Gov. Asa Hutchinson amid mounting criticism from retail giant Wal-Mart and other businesses meant revising the language to closely align with that in the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

But for Indiana, which had seen businesses and organizations ban travel and cancel conventions, the solution was an amendment that put the first references to sexual orientation and gender identity into state law.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who said the law was never intended to allow discrimination and blamed the fallout on “mischaracterizations” of the legislation, signed the bill privately Thursday and urged residents to move on.

“However we got here, we are where we are, and it is important that our state take action to address the concerns that have been raised and move forward,” he said.

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The revised Indiana law prohibits service providers from using it as a legal defense for refusing to provide goods, services, facilities or accommodations. It also bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or U.S. military service.

The measure exempts churches and affiliated schools, along with nonprofit religious organizations.

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