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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 
associations.

   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 
day."

   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.


(KA)


 
 
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