Indiana lawmakers approve ‘religious freedom’ bill

Indiana lawmakers approve ‘religious freedom’ bill

[JURIST] The Indiana Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to a “religious freedom” bill [SB 101] that would allow business owners to turn away customers on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill, approved by a vote of 40-10, will now head to Governor Mike Pence [official website], who is expected to sign it. Proponents of the legislation argue that it will prevent the government from “substantially burdening” business owners’ freedom of religion unless the government can show that it has a “compelling interest” and does so in the “least restrictive manner” possible. Opponents, however, argue that the bill sanctions discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Nineteen states have passed similar laws, and many others are considering this type of legislation.

LGBT rights remain controversial throughout the US. Earlier this month Utah lawmakers unveiled [JURIST report] legislation that aims to balance religious rights and protections against LGBT discrimination in the workplace and housing. Last month Arkansas enacted a bill [JURIST report] that prohibits cities and local governments from establishing ordinances with anti-discrimination codes. Earlier in February the governor of Kansas rescinded [JURIST report] an executive order protecting LGBT state employees from the discrimination, and the Oklahoma House of Representatives [official website] approved a bill [Reuters report] that would protect clergy members from involvement in lawsuits for their refusal to conduct same-sex marriages. Also in February the Florida House of Representatives [official website] introduced a bill that could prohibit [Huffington Post report] transgender people from choosing a bathroom, instead confining them to use the bathroom designated to the sex a person was at birth.

12:00 PM EST ~ Governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law [press release] Thursday.