Indiana governor Mike Pence signed Thursday a quick fix of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFFA), which had stirred hot debates and spurred a national controversy as many people feared that it would expose gays and lesbians to discrimination.
The new legislative fix states that the law does not give the right to private business owners to refuse service to LGBT community members. Yet the new provision does not shield gays from discrimination since Indiana does not consider sexual orientation a protected category similar to gender and race.
The governor’s move was critical to calm down the spirits of many people, business groups, and organizations that protested against RFFA and even planned on boycotting the state and refuse to do business on its territory.
Gov. Pence signed the updated bill in private and soon after made a public statement in an e-mail.
In his statement, the Indiana governor acknowledged that some people were upset with the law for not going too far, while others complained that it already went too far. To solve this dilemma, Gov. Pence said he had to put the interest of the state first. And the interest of the state was to solve the controversy and make clear to everybody that every person was welcome and respected in Indiana, Gov. Pence also wrote.
Indiana senators hope that the new fix would eliminate general misconception that people will be discriminated if they come to Indiana.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. Hoosier hospitality isn’t just a saying. It’s a way of life here,”
one of the senators recently said.
The new fix passed the House on a 66-30 vote and the Senate on a 34-16 vote. The lawmakers who opposed the revision said that they were strong supports of freedom of religion and the right of conscience for all Indiana folks.
Opponents argued that the new fix infringe the two rights guaranteed by the state and the U.S. constitutions. They also pleaded for a “stronger law without the additional language added” Thursday.
The House Speaker gave some explanations for the rushed procedure of tweaking a law that was only recently enacted. He said that the perception problem RFFA had triggered harmed in a “major, major way” businesses across the state.
The new law damaged Indiana’s public image since many corporations threatened to relocate their businesses to other states if the law still stood. However, it was a tough call for the conservatives that proposed the law.
Religious leaders even labeled the recent fix as “destroying” the RFFA.
Micah Clark spoke on behalf of the American Family Association of Indiana, while he also expressed his personal disappointment with the regulators’ lack of consistency. He said it was sad that a law that was not broken had to be “fixed” out of fear, threats, and bullying.
But the LGBT rights advocacy groups warned that the fight was not yet over. They claim that the fix only lessened the harm, while their main goal was to make sure the Indiana gay and lesbians would live their lives protected from discrimination.
They also announced that they will further pressure legislators to enact a comprehensive nondiscrimination law and to ensure that religious freedom was no excuse to discrimination.
Image Source: TIME