INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 23, 2015) – The Indiana House voted 63-31 to pass the controversial religious freedom bill Monday, a bill that brought hundreds of supporters and opponents to rally at the statehouse last week.
Opponents claim the bill would allow Indiana business owners to refuse service to customers based on their religious beliefs.
Supporters of the bill argue the measure is needed to protect Indiana business owners from too much government control. Opponents decry the measure as legalized discrimination.
Freedom Indiana, the same organization that rallied in support of same-sex marriage last year, took to the state house Monday and delivered 10,000 letters of opposition to House Speaker Brian Bosma's office staff.
“We have around 10,000 letters here, so state-wide, our grassroots have just boiled up to the top and we’ve been working hard and we’ve had major businesses around the state like Cummins Engine, Lilly, Alcoa, and Sales Force all come to the table," said Katie Blair, a Campaign Director for Freedom Indiana.
“The bill also pretends that there’s a problem here in Indiana, that some are imposing their beliefs on others already. That people who have a different sexual orientation are what? By their mere existence are imposing their belief? Is that the concern?” said State Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, during floor debate on the bill Monday.
A co-author of the legislation, State Rep. Jud McMillan, R-Brookville, defended the legislation.
“Those things aren’t happening in other states, they aren’t happening at the federal government. So the fears that we continue to hear, we will realize that when we pass this bill have not manifested themselves elsewhere," he said.
Supporters say the bill simply puts Indiana law in step with a federal law passed back in the 90's that creates a stronger judicial standard for the courts to use when settling religious freedom cases.
But after the Supreme Court ruled that parts of that federal law did not apply to the states, some 19 states passed their own religious freedom laws, but Indiana never did.
“This is necessary because of a lack of clarity in Indiana law since this decision came down,” said McMillin.
Still some opponents feel they're only doing it now as a response to losing the battle on same sex marriage last year.
“We know that this is simply about sending a message to a few folks here in Indiana and that's wrong,” said House minority leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City.
The bill needs another vote of approval from the senate and then it will head to Governor Pence, who released this statement following Monday's vote:
“The legislation, SB 101, is about respecting and reassuring Hoosiers that their religious freedoms are intact. I strongly support the legislation and applaud the members of the General Assembly for their work on this important issue. I look forward to signing the bill when it reaches my desk.”