New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has finally spoken out about the controversial “religious freedom” law in Indiana, making him among the last likely 2016 presidential contenders to weigh in on the measure.
Christie said on Wednesday that he opposes any law that would allow for discrimination and backed Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s (R) efforts to change the legislation to make that point clear.
National debate erupted this week over the religious freedom bill. The law does not mention gays and lesbians, but oppenents allege it is a smokescreen that would pave the way to protect business owners who do not want to provide services to gays and lesbians.
“We should not have a situation where people perceive that anybody will be denied service,” Christie said in a statement.
Christie nevertheless offered a passionate defence of Pence, whom he characterised as not intending to be “discriminatory.”
“But, I can tell you this, I know Mike Pence, and he’s got nothing but love in his heart for people and I just do not believe that in any way Mike Pence would intend for anything that happen in his state on his watch to be discriminatory towards any person. And so, my guess is that he’ll fix the problem and move on,” he continued.
“Because that’s the kind of guy he is. I will tell you, amongst the governors, there is nobody that I’ve met amongst the governors who is more sincere in his faith and in his love for people than Mike Pence.”
Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and presumed contenders former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), former Arkansas Gov. Mick Huckabee (R) and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and businesswoman Carly Fiorina all spoke out about the measure.
The majority of White House hopefuls voiced praise for Pence, with the exception of Walker, who offered a more nuanced perspective. Pence himself has also said he’s considering a 2016 bid.
Walker told reporters on Monday, “there’s a balance between wanting to make sure that there’s not discrimination, at the same time respecting religious freedoms,” and added that the Indiana bill is “an issue they will have to debate in Indiana. It’s really not something that we’re going to be involved with here.”
His PAC, Our American Revival, later issued a clarifying statement that Walker “believes in broad religious freedom and the right for Americans to exercise their religion and act on their conscience.”
One remaining likely White House contender, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), has yet to offer his perspective.
A Paul spokesman told The New Republic on Wednesday, “The Senator is out of pocket with family this week and has not weighed in at this time.”
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