LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS (TIP): Indiana’s governor said Tuesday that he wants legislation on his desk by the end of the week to clarify that a new religious-freedom law does not allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Governor Mike Pence defended the measure as a vehicle to protect religious liberty but said he has been meeting with lawmakers “around the clock” to address concerns that the law will allow businesses to deny services to gay customers.
The law has provoked a national outcry, with businesses and organizations including Apple voicing concern and some states barring government-funded travel to the Midwestern state.
The measure 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.
Although the legal language does not specifically mention gays and lesbians, critics say the law is designed to protect businesses and individuals who do not want to serve gays and lesbians, such as florists or caterers who might be hired for a same-sex wedding.
Pence acknowledged that Indiana has a “perception problem” over the law but defended it as a vehicle to protect religious liberty.
“I don’t believe for a minute that it was the intent of the General Assembly to create a license to discriminate,” he said.But, Pence said, he “can appreciate that that’s become the perception, not just here in Indiana but all across the country. We need to confront that.”