After backlash, Republicans look to ‘clarify’ Indiana’s religious freedom act

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 30, 2015) - State lawmakers Monday feuded over the fallout from Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and responded to what Republicans even called a lackluster interview by Governor Mike Pence on a national morning news program.

Republican lawmakers said Monday they never thought a response to the law would get this far, and now they’re having to clean up a national mess and answer questions the Governor wouldn’t.

“Yes, or no – if a florist in Indiana refuses a gay couple at their wedding, is that legal now in Indiana?” George Stephanopulous asked a direct yes or no question of Indiana Governor Mike Pence on his ABC show, “This Week,” Sunday, and got no clear response.

“George, this is where this debate has gone with misinformation,” replied Pence.

“It would have been helpful if he said that yesterday to clarify where he stands but the fact that he didn’t for whatever reason – we’re setting the record straight here today,” said Indiana Senate President Pre-Tem, David Long (R – Fort Wayne).

Indiana’s leading republican lawmakers distanced themselves from the Governor’s questionable performance on ABC’s “This Week.”

“We determined we needed to step in and make sure the waters are calmed that the misconception about the bill is settled and if that requires a legislative clarification that’s what we’re working on,” said Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R – Indianapolis).

State republicans are now on damage control and are looking to add language to the state’s religious freedom act that would clarify what exactly the law aims to accomplish.

As of Monday, there was no clear indication though of what that language will be.

“I think a small tribe of people are suggesting that it does that. They’re mistaken and to the extent they’re saying with that I disagree with their misinterpretation,” said Long.

“The public has been educated and the public is angry and in representative government, I suspect that some of those representatives are having second thoughts about the decision they made,” said Indiana House Minority Leader, Scott Pelath (D – Michigan City).

Indiana Democrats pounced on the opportunity Monday to kill the law they claim will lead to discrimination of Indiana’s gay and lesbian community. Minority leaders want a full repeal, coupled with additions to the state’s civil rights code that would define gays and lesbians as a protected class.

“Businesses are heading for the exits, Hoosiers are fearful they’re going to be subject to state sanctioned discrimination and to quell those concerns, we must send a strong signal and that signal is in Indiana, we do not condone discrimination, we do not tolerate discrimination and we will not legislate discrimination,” said Indiana Senate Minority Leader, Tim Lanane (D – Anderson).

Four weeks are left in the legislative session. Republicans will decide in the coming days what exactly their clarification will be.

As for democrats, they are facing an uphill battle. They have gotten zero indication that any republican will support them in their attempt to repeal the law. With republican supermajorities in both the Indiana House and Senate, democrats will need GOP support in order to accomplish that.

On Monday, Governor Pence cancelled a Tuesday appearance he was planning in Bloomington. Pence was expected to attend the Lincoln Day Dinner, but Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller will now take his place.

More on the religious freedom bill here.

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