One week after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a controversial "religious freedom" law that critics say permits discrimination against LGBT citizens, state lawmakers have announced they've crafted a "fix" for the legislation.
The proposed "fix," introduced Thursday, says that individuals, organizations, and for-profit businesses cannot refuse "services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public" based on "race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service." Churches, other nonprofit religious organizations, and their representatives—including rabbis, priests, and pastors—are largely exempt from these provisions.
According to the new provisions, the original statute cannot be used as a defense for a criminal prosecution or civil action resulting from any such refusal.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said during a press conference on Thursday that some people misunderstood the law's intent, "but it was clear that the perception had to be addressed."
On Tuesday, Pence called the criticism of his state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act a "smear," but he said he would nonetheless support additional legislation to "clarify" lawmakers' intent. Bosma said Thursday that Pence has been "actively involved" in the legislative discussions since but hasn't indicated what he will do with the new legislation.
Bosma called the fix a "big policy step."
"It needs to be fixed. That's what we pledged publicly to do," he said. "It's fixed. Is the damage able to be turned back? That's yet to be seen."
Supporters of the original bill say it protects people—defined as individuals, associations, religious organizations, or for-profit businesses—from acting against their own religious beliefs. The original law stated that if one such "person" feels their religious convictions have been burdened by the government, they can use the law in any related legal action.
After the press conference, the Indiana General Assembly opened its first regular session, and some lawmakers immediately called for a repeal of the original "religious freedom" law.
Indiana Senate Minority Leader Timothy Lanane said the fix does not fully protect people against discrimination.
Rep. Scott Pelath also called for the original law to be rolled back.
"The solution is very simple," Pelath said. "Repeal this law. Secondly, put clear civil-rights protections in place. Thirdly, rework the original, well-intended efforts for religious protection. It will send a message to the rest of the nation. And Indiana can begin to heal."
This story has been updated with details of the change to the legislation and additional comments from state legislators.
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