IN Gov:New Law Not About Discrimination03/29 11:27
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indiana Gov. Mike Pence defended the new state law
that's garnered widespread criticism over concerns it could foster
discrimination and said Sunday it wasn't a mistake to have enacted it.
Pence appeared on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" to discuss
the measure he signed last week prohibiting state laws that "substantially
burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The
definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and
Since the Republican governor signed the bill into law Thursday, Indiana has
been widely criticized by businesses and organizations around the nation, as
well as on social media with the hashtag #boycottindiana. Already, consumer
review service Angie's List has said it will suspend a planned expansion in
Indianapolis because of the new law.
Pence did not answer directly when asked six times whether under the law it
would be legal for a merchant to refuse to serve gay customers. "This is not
about discrimination, this is about empowering people to confront government
overreach," he said. Asked again, he said, "Look, the issue here is still is
tolerance a two-way street or not."
Pence told the Indianapolis Star on Saturday that he was in discussions with
legislative leaders over the weekend and expects a clarification bill to be
introduced in the coming week. He addressed that Sunday, saying, "if the
General Assembly ... sends me a bill that adds a section that reiterates and
amplifies and clarifies what the law really is and what it has been for the
last 20 years, then I'm open to that."
But Pence was adamant that the measure, slated to take effect in July, will
stick. "We're not going to change this law," Pence said.
Some national gay-rights groups say it's a way for lawmakers in Indiana and
several others states where such bills have been proposed this year to
essentially grant a state-sanctioned waiver for discrimination as the nation's
highest court prepares to mull the gay marriage question.
Supporters of the law, including Pence, contend discrimination claims are
overblown and insist it will keep the government from compelling people to
provide services they find objectionable on religious grounds. They also
maintain courts haven't allowed discrimination under similar laws covering the
federal government and 19 other states. Arkansas is poised to follow in
Indiana's footsteps, with a final vote expected next week in the House on
legislation that Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he'll sign.
Josh Earnest, President Barack Obama's spokesman, appeared on "This Week"
just after Pence, and said the debate isn't a political argument.
"If you have to go back two decades to try to justify what you're doing
today, it may raise questions," Earnest said, referring to the 1993 federal law
Pence brought up. He added that Pence "is in damage-control mode this morning
and he's got some damage to fix."
State Rep. Ed DeLaney, an Indianapolis Democrat, told a large, boisterous
crowd Saturday gathered outside of the Statehouse to protest that the law
creates "a road map, a path to discrimination." Rally attendees chanted "Pence
must go!" several times and held signs that read "No hate in our state."
Pence addressed the critics Sunday, saying: "This avalanche of intolerance
that's been poured on our state is just outrageous." Asked if he would be
willing to add sexual orientation to the list of characteristics against which
discrimination is illegal, he said, "I will not push for that. That's not on my
agenda, and that's not been an objective of the people of the state of Indiana."
U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, released a video statement on his
Facebook page Saturday, saying: "We'll work together to reverse SB101 and we'll
stand together to make sure that here in Indiana, we welcome everyone, every
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican who opposed the law, has said
he and other city officials will talk with businesses and convention planners
to counter the uproar.
Angie's List had sought an $18.5 million incentive package from
Indianapolis' City-County Council to add 1,000 jobs over five years. But
founder and CEO Bill Oseterle said in a statement Saturday that the expansion
was on hold "until we fully understand the implications of the freedom
restoration act on our employees."
The Indianapolis-based NCAA has expressed concerns about the law and has
suggested it could move future events elsewhere; the men's Final Four will be
held in the city next weekend.