Senior staff writer
Most Southside legislators voted for the religious freedom law that goes into effect July 1 in Indiana. But before that happens, the measure will be amended to prevent discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
During a national news conference Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence said, “We will fix this, and we will move forward. We will make it clear that the law does not give businesses the right to deny services to anyone. The state has been smeared by the outside criticism.”
Republican Sens. Pat Miller and Brent Waltz, who represent most of the Southside, were part of the 40-10 majority vote for Indiana’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Previously in the Indiana House of Representatives, Southside Reps. Woody Burton, David Frizzell and Mike Speedy, all Republicans, voted aye. GOP Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer of Beech Grove voted against the bill.
Kirchhofer explained that her vote was due to “feedback from the district was overwhelmingly against the bill.” She wondered about clarification long before the bill was approved by the Senate.
“While the bill is seemingly simply worded, I wonder how courts will interpret the legislative intent … indeed, I feel the public wants clarification,” she said.
Indiana is 20th state to approve such an act, but the fire storm that erupted nationwide caught most state politicians by surprise.
“It has been extremely frustrating the way many have attempted to portray this legislation,” said Waltz, co-author of the bill. “The language of SB 101 is clear that it does not discriminate against any group. There has been a massive amount of untruths being circulated about this legislation.”
Waltz, however, welcomed any clarification that confirms the legislation is not discriminatory and that Indiana is welcoming of all people.
Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley will ask the City Council to support a proclamation April 6 stating that the city is an inclusive city and does not discriminate against any person.
“Our government and businesses support everyone and everyone is welcome,” Buckley stated on Facebook.
Mayor Greg Ballard fought to restore Indianapolis’ image as a welcoming city Monday with his first executive order of the year. The order asks the state to expressly add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in state law.
“The city has gained a reputation for welcoming and promoting diversity,” Ballard proclaimed.
The City-County Council voted 24-4 Monday in bipartisan favor of a resolution against the RFRA with Southside Councilor Jack Sandlin, former Perry Township trustee, voting against the resolution.
Sandlin, a Republican, contended that SB 101 applies to everybody and that it prevents government from interfering with people’s personal freedoms. The bill does not infringe upon the rights of the public, he emphasized.
Republicans in the General Assembly began discussing ways to clarify the law Monday, but Democrats wanted to repeal the act. Speaker of the House Brian Bosma said the law would not be repealed.
The first religious freedom act was a 1993 federal law signed by President Bill Clinton to prevent governmental discrimination against religious citizens.
The Indiana law prohibits the government from “substantially burdening” a person’s exercise of religion but is different from RFRA in that it allows any for-profit business to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion.”
Twenty states have adopted RFRA statutes; however, many of those states exempted civil rights discrimination and provide specific protection for LGBT.