Indiana’s social conservatives wanted a law that insulated them from the gay rights movement. Instead, lawmakers there are on on the verge of enacting protections based on sexual orientation for the first time in state history.
Top Indiana Republican lawmakers are poised to overhaul their week-old religious freedom law Thursday in an effort to ease concerns driven by businesses that it could lead to discrimination.
They appear to have tamped down some of the criticism — but in doing so they’ve infuriated social conservative activists, and they’ve set the stage for a bigger fight next year over expanding Indiana’s anti-discrimination law to cover gays and lesbians.
Republican legislative leaders unveiled a series of changes Thursday morning to the law that triggered intense backlash from businesses, sports associations, pro-LGBT groups and even fiscally-focused conservatives when Gov. Mike Pence signed it last week.
The GOP-dominated House and Senate are set to vote on the legislative fix, which was added into an unrelated bill, on Thursday, sending it to Pence’s desk almost immediately.
The changes would prohibit businesses from using the law as a defense in court for refusing “to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing” to any customers based on “race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service.”
It doesn’t accomplish what the law’s critics wanted most: Adding sexual orientation to the list of categories protected by Indiana’s anti-discrimination law.
But that debate, GOP legislators acknowledged, is coming soon. House Speaker Brian Bosma said the backlash against the religious freedom law has “opened many perspectives” and that the anti-discrimination law “needs to be discussed.”