Suit challenges limits on Indiana’s religious objections law

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Darron Cummings, AP

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Conservative groups started a court challenge Thursday to limits that were placed on Indiana‘s religious objections law in the days after last spring’s national uproar over whether it could be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

The lawsuit filed in a Hamilton County court by the Indiana Family Institute and others argues that the restrictions violate the state constitution by taking away legal protections based on a person’s religious views on matters such as same-sex marriages.

The revisions signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Pence prohibit businesses from using the religious-objections law as a legal defense for refusing to provide services, goods, facilities or accommodations.

The lawsuit also challenges local civil rights ordinances in Indianapolis and the suburban city of Carmel that include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Jim Bopp, a Terre Haute attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the groups, said it was “intolerable” to allow legal protections for only some religious beliefs.

“In essence, they are only allowing people to exercise their religious objection within the four corners of a church,” Bopp told the Indianapolis Business Journal.

The lawsuit names the cities of Indianapolis and Carmel as defendants.

Brad Jacklin, press secretary for Republican Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, said the lawsuit appeared “more like a sneak attack on the residents of Indianapolis than a serious lawsuit.”

“The rights of LGBT people and their families can co-exist with the rights of people with sincere religious beliefs to practice their faith, as we have seen in Indianapolis for the past decade,” he said.

The religious-objections law that Pence signed in March prohibited any laws that “substantially burden” the ability of a person, association or business to follow religious beliefs. Indiana faced widespread criticism and threats of boycott over the original law that critics said would have shielded those who didn’t want to serve gays and lesbians, such as florists or caterers for a same-sex wedding.

The Republican-dominated Legislature in little more than a week approved revisions preventing the law from being used to override local ordinances with LGBT protections in more than a dozen cities or counties around the state.

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