Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence would like to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in his state from discrimination, just as long as there are corresponding protections for people who have religious objections to LGBT relationships. Pence broached the controversial subject Tuesday night in a State of the State address he delivered ahead of a re-election bid.
Now that LGBT individuals have the right to marry nationwide, many activists are seeking legal protections for people who might face discrimination in the workplace or in public accommodations because of who they love. But Pence said the LGBT community loses his support for protections if people with deeply held religious beliefs fear persecution for standing on their convictions.
"I will not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or that interferes with the constitutional rights of our citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service or work," Pence said, according to the Indianapolis Star newspaper. The governor has historically been conservative on social issues.
Republican leaders in the state have promised to debate adding anti-discrimination protections for LGBT residents. One legislative proposal includes the extending of civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But there would be carve-outs for religious objectors, the Star reported. Another proposal would grant rights to gays and lesbians but leaves out transgender individuals.
In his address Tuesday, Pence urged state lawmakers to respect religious freedom protections written into the state's Constitution. Indiana is "an open and welcoming state that respects everyone," the governor said. “No one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are, who they love or what they believe," he said, according to the Star.
He continued: "The issues confronting our state are complex, but I believe if we will hew to our roots, stand firm on the freedoms bequeathed to us by our founders, if we confront the challenges before us with common sense and craft Indiana solutions to improve the lives of Hoosiers, we will move forward together."