Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) on Thursday afternoon signed into law a revised version of a controversial religious freedom bill, that included new language to clarify that businesses and service providers cannot use the legislation as a justification to discriminate based on a client’s sexual orientation.
The original Religious Freedom Restoration Act came under fire nationally, with critics contending that it could allow businesses to refuse to serve gay and lesbian patrons. Under scrutiny, Pence asked that the language of the bill be clarified, and lawmakers unveiled new language on Thursday morning that explicitly stated that no “provider…may deny service to anyone on basis of sexual orientation, race, religion or disability.”
In signing the revised bill, which was approved by the legislature on Thursday, Pence continued to argue that there had been a misunderstanding about the bill’s intent.
“Over the past week this law has become a subject of great misunderstanding and controversy across our state and nation,” said Pence in a statement Thursday evening. “However we got here, we are where we are, and it is important that our state take action to address the concerns that have been raised and move forward.”
The original bill was heavily criticized by business leaders as well as the NCAA, the powerful collegiate sports organization that is headquartered in Indianapolis — which said that if the law was not changed, the organization could reconsider whether to host future events in the state.
In a statement issued soon after the new language was announced by lawmakers, NCAA President Mark Emmert praised the additional language and called for it to be quickly codified into law.
Still, not all of the groups that had most vocally opposed the legislation said that they were statisifed with the new wording.
“Our position is that this “fix” is insufficient. There was no repeal of RFRA and no end to discrimination of homosexuals in Indiana,” said Bill Oesterle, the CEO of Angie’s List. “Employers in most of the state of Indiana can fire a person simply for being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning. That’s just not right and that’s the real issue here. Our employees deserve to live, work and travel with open accommodations in any part of the state.”