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Gov. Pence Signs RFRA Clarification

House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long spoke to reporters Thursday morning about changes to the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

6:00 p.m. – Gov. Pence has signed the amended version of RFRA.

“Last weekend I called upon the Indiana General Assembly to clarify that this new judicial standard would not create a license to discriminate or to deny services to any individual as its critics have alleged,” Pence said in a statement.  “I believe resolving this controversy and making clear that every person feels welcome and respected in our state is best for Indiana. “

The statement goes on to extol how the economic climate of Indiana relies on business, and that RFRA as it was written would not have contributed to what Pence calls a “pro-business” mentality.

4:30 p.m.- The Indiana Senate voted 34-16 to pass the amended version of RFRA, sending the bill to Governor Pence’s desk.

4:15 p.m.- The Indiana House voted 66-30 to pass the amended version of RFRA.

4 p.m.- Some of the staunchest supporters of Indiana’s religious freedom bill say the “clarification language” crafted by Republican legislative leaders will destroy religious protections the controversial law created.

The bill known as RFRA allows people to use their religious beliefs as a legal defense against certain government regulations.  GOP lawmakers this week developed a follow-up bill that says RFRA can’t be used to deny services, goods, housing, or employment to anyone based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  But Eric Miller says the backlash that prompted the follow up bill is unwarranted.  Miller is the executive director of Advance America, a powerful Indiana conservative group.  He argues the outrage over RFRA is the result of a coordinated misinformation campaign by people pushing a particular agenda.

“Which is to get government recognition, government approval, adding to our civil rights laws protections for sexual orientation and gender identity,” Miller says. “That’s the endgame.”

In a statement, Indiana Right to Life says the legislative clarification will dismantle protections RFRA would have provided pro-life people and businesses from being forced to support abortion.

1:30 p.m.- In response to severe backlash, Republican leaders crafted a follow-up bill to RFRA that says the controversial law cannot be used to deny services, goods, housing or employment to anyone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Speaker Brian Bosma says the language clarifying RFRA is unequivocal:

“Indiana is open for business,” Bosma says. “We welcome everyone; we discriminate against no one.”

But House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath says clarifying language isn’t enough to solve the problem.  He says full repeal must be the first step.

“The people who made the problem in the first place got behind closed doors with some quaking-in-their-boots business leaders and hammered something out in private,” Pelath says. “You pull together a press conference, you get the window dressing in place, and you tell the people of Indiana everything’s okay. Well it’s not okay.”

Republican leaders say full repeal isn’t on the table.

Live updates:

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, is holding a press conference at 9 a.m. to discuss the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “fix” that aims to specify the law is cannot be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Last night, after meeting with caucus members for hours, House Speaker Brian Bosma said the GOP was close to agreement on the language.

 

12:04 p.m.- The conference committee has ended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10:11 a.m.- In committee hearing, Democrats appear reluctant to support RFRA fix. They say it was done too quickly and behind closed doors.

 

Live stream from WTHR:

13 WTHR Indianapolis

 

9:42 a.m.- The press conference has ended. The conference committee hearing where the language will be debated is being held in the Senate chambers.

 

9:38 a.m.- GOP leaders are confident the new language will be approved.

 

 

 

 

9:28 a.m.- Conservative groups, such as Advance America, say the RFRA change is “destroying” religious freedom protection in Indiana. House Speaker Brian Bosma says free speech is allowed but he is confident in the new changes.

 

 

9:24 a.m.- As Freedom Indiana notes below, this is the  first time sexual orientation has been specified in the context of nondiscrimination. The state’s civil rights statute does not include sexual orientation.

Here’s Indiana’s civil rights statute.

Sec. 2. (a) It is the public policy of the state to provide all of its citizens equal opportunity for education, employment, access to public conveniences and accommodations, and acquisition through purchase or rental of real property, including but not limited to housing, and to eliminate segregation or separation based solely on race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin or ancestry, since such segregation is an impediment to equal opportunity. Equal education and employment opportunities and equal access to and use of public accommodations and equal opportunity for acquisition of real property are hereby declared to be civil rights

 

 

This is the first time Indiana law will put special protect

 

Here’s the new language that will be included in the existing RFRA law:

This chapter does not:

(1) authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodation, goods, employment or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service;

(2) establish a defense to a civil action or criminal prosecution for refusal by a provider to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service; or,

(3) negate any rights available under the Constitution of the State of Indiana.

 

 

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