Gov. Pence calls on lawmakers to fix religious freedom law as national spotlight grows

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INDIANAPOLIS (March 31, 2015) – Five days after signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence stood before a slew of national cameras Tuesday admitting a fix is needed.

“It’s been a tough week here in the Hoosier state,” he said. “But we’re going to move forward.”

Pence asked lawmakers to have legislation on his desk by Friday, somehow clarifying the law won’t allow for discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Tuesday afternoon lawmakers moved forward with the framework to strip language in a current bill, Senate Bill 50, and replace it with what will become the “fix” to the religious freedom.

As of Tuesday night, the exact wording hadn’t been agreed upon. Top Republicans have spent the past 24 hours meeting with lawmakers, business and community leaders.

Once agreed upon, the changes could be heard in a conference committee as early as Wednesday.

“I don`t believe for a minute that it was the intention of the General Assembly to create a license to discriminate or right to deny services to gays, lesbians or anyone else in my state,” Pence said. “And it certainly wasn`t my intent.”

It still appears unlikely a new statewide anti-discrimination law, specifically protecting gays and lesbians, will be proposed by Republican leaders, which is something accompanying several other religious freedom laws across the country.

“I’ve never supported that, and I want to be clear, it’s not on my agenda,” Pence said. “But I think it’s a completely separate question.”

Pence said Tuesday the intent was to frame Indiana’s law after federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in 1993, blaming the current national backlash on “the reckless reporting by some in the media.”

In response to the governor’s news conference broadcast live on local and cable channels, Indiana Democratic leaders again called for a full repeal of the law.

“They’re not looking for a band aid, and neither are we,” Senate Democratic Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) said. “We want bold action and that’s what people are waiting to see in the state of Indiana.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest fired back at Pence, in by far the strongest language from Washington on the matter.

“Well I know Gov. Pence has been trying to falsely suggest that the law that was signed in Indiana is the same as the law that was passed on the federal level in 1993,” Earnest said. “That is not true.”

Pence and Republican leaders underscored the urgency Tuesday with the Final Four in Indianapolis days away and continued pressure from leading Indiana business leaders. The question remains: Will the fix work?

“I’m calling on the General Assembly to focus on the issue here,” Pence said. “That focuses on frankly the smear that has been leveled against the law and the state of Indiana.”

Watch the full news conference here:

 

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