INDIANAPOLIS — Three days after signing legislation widely criticized as a “license to discriminate” against LGBT people, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says he didn’t anticipate “the hostility that’s been directed at our state.”
Pence told the Indianapolis Star on Saturday he’s been in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend, and will support legislation to “clarify the intent” of the religious freedom that has created a firestorm of criticism, boycotts and backlash from civic leaders to business leaders, and even the White House.
The Republican governor said expects that a clarification bill will be introduced this coming week to the religious objections law he signed Thursday.
Pence declined to provide details but told the newspaper that making LGBT Indiana residents a protected legal class is “not on my agenda.”
Pence said repeatedly that the intense blowback against the new law is the result of a “misunderstanding driven by misinformation,” and disputes the law allows state-sanctioned anti-LGBT discrimination.
Since signing the bill into law on Thursday, Indiana has been widely criticized by businesses and organizations around the nation, as well as on social media with the hashtag #boycottindiana.
The fallout continued Saturday, when consumer review service Angie’s List said it will suspend a planned expansion in Indianapolis because of the new law.
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The measure, which takes effect in July, prohibits state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of “person” includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.
Critics say the catalyst for the measure was to allow businesses, such as florists and bakeries, to refuse services to same-sex couples following the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state.
Pence and other supporters of the law contend discrimination claims are overblown and insist it will keep the government from compelling people to provide services they find objectionable on religious grounds.
They also maintain that courts haven’t allowed discrimination under similar laws covering the federal government and 19 other states.
But state Rep. Ed DeLaney, an Indianapolis Democrat, said Indiana’s law goes further and opens the door to discrimination.
“This law does not openly allow discrimination, no, but what it does is create a road map, a path to discrimination,” he told the large, boisterous crowd that gathered outside of the Statehouse on Saturday.
“Indiana’s version of this law is not the same as that in other states. It adds all kinds of new stuff and it moves us further down the road to discrimination,” said DeLaney.
Saturday’s crowd, for which police didn’t have an exact estimate, chanted “Pence must go!” several times and many people held signs like “I’m pretty sure God doesn’t hate anyone” and “No hate in our state.”