Indiana lawmakers propose anti-discrimination amendment to ‘religious freedom’ law News
Indiana lawmakers propose anti-discrimination amendment to ‘religious freedom’ law

[JURIST] Indiana’s Republican legislative leaders announced Thursday that they are proposing an amendment [text, PDF] to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) [text] in an attempt to remedy the perception that the act permits discrimination based on sexual orientation. State Senate President Pro Tem David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma [official profiles] will introduce the proposal, which bars service providers from using the act as a defense against accusations of discrimination and explicitly bars discrimination based on race, religion, age, national origin, disability or US military service. A conference committee will review the act once it is introduced, and both the House and Senate must approve the amendment before it can reach Governor Mike Pence [official website] to be signed or rejected.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, as well as freedom of religious practice, remain controversial issues in the US. Nineteen states have enacted some variety of religious freedom laws, most modeled after the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act [text] signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993. At the time, Clinton stated [NYT report] that the law subjects the federal government to “a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion.” Pence signed Indiana’s version into law after the state Senate approved [JURIST report] the bill by a 40-10 vote. Proponents of the bill, such as Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor Daniel O. Conkle argue [text] that it “protect[s] religious believers of all faiths by granting them precisely the same consideration [as the federal law.]” The bill’s strong opposition, however, argues that the law and those like it undermine the American spirit of inclusion. The considerable backlash from the Indiana bill is likely the reason Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson [official website] declined to sign into law a similar bill [JURIST report] in his state until the state lawmakers bring it more into line with the federal bill.