Indiana’s legislative leaders said Monday they will encourage lawmakers to clarify the state’s controversial Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, which opponents say paves the way for gay and lesbian and other groups to be denied services by business owners who feel such lifestyles go against their religious beliefs. Indiana State Senate Pro Tem David Long and House Speaker David Bosma, both Republicans, said the new law has been “misconstrued” by opponents and the legislation does not open the door to discrimination.
“That’s not the intent or the design of the bill. The answer is, ‘No,’ it’s not the intent of the bill,” Bosma said during a news conference announcing the clarification plans for the law, which prevents the government from "substantially" burdening someone's religious rights unless the government has a compelling interest to do so . “We’re prepared to encourage our legislative colleagues to take immediate action to clarify that in every way.” No timeline was given for the clarification or how it would be implemented.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, also a Republican, faced backlash after he signed the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, also known as SB 101, on Friday. The bill signing spurred Angie’s List, the website headquartered in Indianapolis that lists reviews for local services, to cancel its $40 million expansion, while Apple CEO Tim Cook said the bill and similar religious freedom laws are “bad for business.” The NCAA, which is also headquartered in Indianapolis, expressed concern over how its athletes would be treated after the bill was passed, according to ABC News.
Pence said he would not sign the bill if he believed it would open up groups to discrimination. But he also refused to directly respond to whether a business could deny services to gay and lesbian couples when he appeared on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopolous.
Democrats were set to hold their own press conference on SB 101 later Monday.