GOP seeks RFRA clarity, Dems want it repealed

Scott Pelath (left) and Brian Bosma speak March 30, 2015 about the Religious Freedom Reformation Act. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — State lawmakers are scrambling to repair the damage to the state’s reputation caused by passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Leaders in both parties called for new legislation Monday morning in separate news conferences. The Republicans have one idea and the Democrats have another.

One thing leaders in the General Assembly both realize is that Indiana’s reputation has been damaged severely in the days since the governor signed the religious freedom bill last Thursday.

It’s a problem that was compounded when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appeared on ABC Sunday and refused to answer the question when asked repeatedly whether the bill would permit a business to discriminate against gay customers. It’s why Republicans leaders promised to clarify the bill on Monday.

“Last week the governor, when he signed the bill, said, ‘I don’t believe this discriminates against anyone,’ and if it did he wouldn’t have signed the bill,” said Senate GOP Leader David Long. “It would have been helpful if he said that yesterday.”

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane had something similar to say.

“Six times yesterday the governor was asked if this would allow discrimination,” he said, “and he didn’t answer that.”

Democratic leaders are now calling for a repeal of the of the religious freedom bill in addition to modifying the state’s civil rights law to protect people on the basis of sexual orientation.

“They were wrong,” Lanane said, “and it’s time that they admitted that they made a horrible mistake.”

House Speaker Brian Bosma says a repeal is unlikely.

Instead, GOP leaders are looking to pass a bill that would clarify the intent of the religious freedom bill so that it couldn’t be used to discriminate.

They won’t spell out the specifics until they can talk with other GOP members in a private caucus. However, they promise quick action.

Meanwhile, some Indianapolis City-County Councillors say they also plan to take a stance on the new law. Several council Democrats say they’ll introduce a resolution that officially says the council opposes the law. The resolution asks state lawmakers to change the civil rights section of Indiana code to include sexual orientation, and to allow local anti-discrimination ordinances to trump state law.

Indianapolis and several other cities within the state have a human rights ordinance that bans discrimination.

“From the council level there is not much we can do to impact state policy, but what can we do is send a loud signal across the nation and the world that Indianapolis is a welcoming and diverse place,” said democratic councillor John Barth, who is a sponsor of the resolution.

It’s unclear if the council will discuss the news from Angie’s List from over the weekend. Saturday, the company’s CEO announced he is putting the company’s $40 million expansion on the east side on hold.

Councillors had to approve at least $18 million for the project.

Some council Republicans have said they will support the resolution against the religious freedom law. Democrats will ask Indy’s Mayor Greg Ballard to sign the resolution. Ballard released a statement last week saying the law “sends the wrong signal.”

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