Indiana’s top lawmakers have reportedly figured out how they want to change the state’s “religious freedom” law, which has generated nationwide controversy.
The Indianapolis Star reported Thursday that Indiana’s Republican leaders will announce a legislative proposal to grant “new protections for LGBT customers, employees and tenants.” Critics said the original law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, paved the way for businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
“The compromise legislation specifies that the new religious freedom law cannot be used as a legal defence to discriminate against patrons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” The Star reported. “The proposal goes much further than a ‘preamble’ that was proposed earlier in the week, and, if it stands, would be the first time any protections against discrimination have been extended to gays and lesbians in state law.”
State Senate President David Long (R) and House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) reportedly spent an hour and a half Wednesday night discussing the proposal with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s (R) top staff members.
“We feel there is a strong consensus,” Long said after the meeting. “We feel good about it. We did a lot of hard work to bring the groups together to find the comfort level everyone feels does the job of truly saying this does not discriminate against anyone.”
Indiana has been the focal point of a national debate over “religious freedom” laws that has led to protests, denunciations, and even economic boycotts of the state since last week, when Pence signed the bill into law. Reeling from the damage, Pence held a press conference on Tuesday defending the bill but announcing he would push for a “fix” to its “perception problem.”
The Star nevertheless cautioned that the proposal will probably not satisfy all of the bill’s critics. Katie Blair, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, told the paper that the proposal does not go far enough in offering protections to the state’s gay community.
“We understand that lawmakers are working to ‘fix’ the Indiana RFRA that has done so much harm to Indiana over the past week, but we want to make it clear that we need full protection from discrimination against all LGBT Hoosiers,” Blair said. “According to current media reports, the proposal being considered falls far short of these principles, leaving the door wide open for discrimination.”
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