Indiana and Arkansas lawmakers approved changes to their "religious freedom" laws on Thursday in response to widespread criticism that the laws enabled businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community by citing religious beliefs. The reaction of business leaders in both states and across the nation made it clear that the perception of legalized anti-gay bias would have economic consequences.
In Indiana, the amendment to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was approved Thursday by both chambers and prohibits service providers from denying service to LGBT people for religious reasons. The law, which goes into effect July 1, doesn't mention sexual orientation, but specifies that the state and local governments are prohibited from keeping a person from exercising their religion.
The Indiana House voted 66-30 and the Senate voted 34-16 to amend the law, reported USA Today.
Arkansas lawmakers had approved a bill similar to the original Indiana version, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson refused to sign it on Wednesday. Hutchinson said his own son had signed a petition decrying the bill. The Arkansas leader also may have been persuaded by the $250 million that the Indiana bill was projected to cost the state, over six years, from business lost due to boycotts.
He wanted a bill similar to the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, so the Arkansas House voted 76 to 17 for the new version. Hutchinson signed the measure, which had been approved Wednesday night by the state Senate, reported KATV.
The ACLU of Arkansas said in a statement that the bill "falls short in protecting against the use of religion to avoid following laws that protect Arkansans from harm. The new RFRA can still be invoked to justify discrimination against gay and transgender people, people of color, minority faiths, women, and other Arkansans at risk."
Supporters of the Indiana amendment say it is now clear that the law can't be used to discriminate against LGBT people, but opponents of the bill argue the amendments are not enough. Those who support the bill believe the amendments could undermine the religious liberties the bill purported to uphold.
“The proposed change to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not a fix but a hammer to destroy religious freedom for Hoosiers around the state,” Eric Miller, executive director of Advance America, said in a statement, reported the New York Times.
The Indiana bill now goes to Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who has not yet said whether he will sign it.