Indiana to clarify 'religious freedom' law, Georgia, N.C. bills stall

Mon Mar 30, 2015 9:58pm EDT
 
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By Fiona Ortiz

(Reuters) - Indiana Republicans pledged on Monday to clarify a new "religious freedom" law, while similar proposals stalled in Georgia and North Carolina after businesses and activists said such measures could be used to discriminate against gays.

Arkansas lawmakers, however, signaled they would move forward with their own bill, even after Indiana was rebuked by companies and executives including Wal-Mart Stores Inc WMT.N, Apple Inc AAPL.O CEO Tim Cook, and Eli Lilly and Co LLY.N.

Indiana's law, signed by Governor Mike Pence last week, was perceived as going further than those passed in 19 other states, giving businesses a right to refuse services on religious grounds.

Gay marriage became legal in Indiana last year following an appeals court ruling, and gay rights activists say Republicans pushed through the act in response. It was enacted months before an expected U.S. Supreme Court ruling over state bans on same-sex marriage.

The law has drawn intense criticism, including concerns from the president of the Indianapolis-based National Collegiate Athletic Association, which is holding its men's basketball championship Final Four in the city beginning this weekend.

On Monday, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and state Senate President Pro Tem David Long, both Republicans, told reporters the law was not intended to discriminate, and that it sets a legal standard allowing people of all faiths to bring religious freedom claims.

"To the extent that we need to clarify that, by adding something to the law to make that clear that's not the intent, we are more than willing to do it," Long said.

Nine chief executive officers, including the heads of Angie's List ANGI.O and Eli Lilly, wrote letters to Pence, Bosma and Long on Monday asking them to "take immediate action" to ensure the act will not sanction or encourage discrimination.   Continued...

 
Demonstrators gather at Monument Circle to protest a controversial religious freedom bill recently signed by Governor Mike Pence, during a rally in Indianapolis March 28, 2015.  REUTERS/Nate Chute