UPDATE: Amendment passes House 66-30, Senate also approves with 34-16 vote. Gov Pence signed the bill Thursday evening.
INDIANAPOLIS (April 2, 2015) – Standing among a group of Indianapolis business and community leaders, Statehouse leaders said they had fixed the divisive Religious Freedom Restoration Act that created a national outcry.
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said they consulted with business leaders and members of the LGBT community to fix the bill.
Both said the law had been misrepresented and needed to be changed because of the perception that it could be used to discriminate against the LGBT community. A conference committee convened later Thursday morning to discuss the changes.
Here's part of the new language inserted into the bill:
This chapter does not: (1) authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or United States military services; (2) establish a defense to a civil action or criminal prosecution for refusal by a provider to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military Service
The House passed the changes with a 66-30 vote, and it passed the Senate 34-16. The bill now moves to Gov. Pence's desk to be signed into law.
"It was clear that the perception had to be addressed. Hoosier hospitality had to be restored," Bosma said about the law, which created an outcry after Gov. Mike Pence signed it last week. “We’re here to announce that it’s fixed.”
“We’re clarifying what it doesn’t do today,” Long said. “I think the people standing behind us believe that we have (fixed problems with the law).”
Bart Peterson, a former Indianapolis mayor who now works for Eli Lilly, said public policy matters and words matter. He said lawmakers and community leaders had worked very hard over the past few days to reach a compromise.
"The future of Indiana was at stake," Peterson said. "The healing needs to begin right now. For the first time ever, the words 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' appear in an Indiana statute."
Peterson said he had complete confidence that Indiana would rebound and that Thursday's changes "showed the world what the people of Indiana are really made of."
Scott McCorkle, one of several business leaders in attendance, thanked his employees and Indiana residents for coming out strongly against the law. Salesforce had been one of the most vocal opponents of RFRA.
“I love Indiana, and I know you do, too.” McCorkle said. “At the time of Indiana’s greatest need, it was inspiring to see so many people come together and give back to the state that they love, too. Today is a positive first step, but it is a first step in a larger discussion that we acknowledge the importance of equal rights for all.”
Chris Douglas, founding president of Indianapolis Rainbow Chamber of Commerce and an eighth generation Hoosier, described Indiana as a “great state” and said Hoosiers of all faiths and economic background called for change.
“The measure announced today, for the first time in Indiana law establishes sexual orientation and gender identity in the context of recognizing and protecting our rights as equal citizens of the state of Indiana. We know that this is only the beginning.”
Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle came out strongly against the clarification:
“Our position is that this 'fix' is insufficient. There was no repeal of RFRA and no end to discrimination of homosexuals in Indiana. Employers in most of the state of Indiana can fire a person simply for being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning. That’s just not right and that’s the real issue here. Our employees deserve to live, work and travel with open accommodations in any part of the state."
-Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle
Freedom Indiana, a grassroots advocacy group, called Thursday's announcement a first step but said there was more work to be done:
“The changes proposed by the Legislature represent a step in the right direction that takes us closer to achieving our goal of passing the Fairness for All Hoosiers Act.
“Today, the harm has been lessened, but we have not reached the day when LGBT Hoosiers can be assured that they can live their lives with freedom from discrimination.
“It’s long past time to enact a comprehensive nondiscrimination law, and we must continue to work to ensure, once and for all, that the RFRA cannot be used to discriminate against or hurt anyone.
“Thousands of Hoosiers and millions of Americans spoke loudly and clearly that discrimination cannot be tolerated in any form. That outcry has made all the difference.
“Facing tremendous economic damage and mounting public pressure, particularly from leading businesses in the state, lawmakers have responded with a measure to reduce the harm caused by the new law and include positive references to sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time in Indiana state law.
“These changes represent an important step forward. They fall short in many ways, and our work is far from over.
“Statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Hoosiers still do not exist, meaning discrimination is still legal in most of the state.
“Businesses in Indiana, and many other employers looking to do business with our state, have made it clear that the state must pass a statewide nondiscrimination law that protects all Hoosiers from discrimination and ensures that Indiana is seen as a welcoming place to visit and do business.
“Some of the country’s leading companies – trend setters and innovators – came togetherto voice their support for laws to end discrimination of any kind.
“It’s time to pass a comprehensive nondiscrimination law, and we will continue to work with our allies to ensure that the RFRA cannot be used to discriminate or harm anyone.
“Indiana businesses have shown they are ready to lead. We look forward to working with them to pass statewide protections against discrimination. That campaign begins today.”
Eric Miller of Advance America, a grassroots group with a focus on pro-family and pro-church issues, blasted the changes:
“The Indiana General Assembly should not destroy in less than 36 hours the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that took over 65 days to go through the legislative process earlier this year.”
“It is wrong for the senators and representatives to vote on a bill that has been written in the last few hours behind closed doors and out of sight of the public. It is wrong for the senators and representatives to make a sham of the legislative process and vote on this bill that has never had one public committee hearing in the Senate or the House.”
“The proposed change to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not a ‘fix’ but a hammer to destroy religious freedom for Hoosiers around the state – and it was all done behind closed doors!”
Indiana University, which had criticized the law, released a statement saying it was "grateful" that lawmakers had acted quickly to clarify it:
Indiana University expresses its appreciation and support for this clarifying language, which ensures that nothing in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will provide legal protection for, or in any way promote or permit, discrimination in any form on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or their race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity or military service. We are grateful for the hard work and good intentions of those who have earnestly labored in recent days to address this problem.
Indiana University asks all Hoosiers to remember that religious liberty and equal protection under the law are both cornerstones of our democracy and they should not be in conflict with each other. Our system of government works best when people of good will come together to reconcile their differences and find common ground.
We are pleased that this has happened in this situation, and it is our hope and expectation that this clarification will now allow all Hoosiers to put this matter behind us and work together to promote a better image and indeed a better future for the State of Indiana.
The NCAA, which has also expressed concerns about the law, issued this statement:
“We are very pleased the Indiana legislature is taking action to amend Senate Bill 101 so that it is clear individuals cannot be discriminated against. NCAA core values call for an environment that is inclusive and non-discriminatory for our student-athletes, membership, fans, staff and their families. We look forward to the amended bill being passed quickly and signed into law expeditiously by the governor.”
Mark Emmert, NCAA president
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard issued the following statement:
“I appreciate both houses of the Indiana General Assembly taking this important first step. The proposed new language moves us in the right direction, and I would like to see it passed and signed into law by the end of the day. As discussions on this legislative fix progressed, the verbiage grew stronger, offering greater measures of protection for all Hoosiers. For the first time in Indiana at the state level, employment and housing protections are being proposed based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This is a positive step and a more accurate representation of the Hoosier Hospitality that defines Indianapolis and Indiana.”