Indiana’s religious freedom law: What was changed, what’s next?

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INDIANAPOLIS (April 3, 2015) – Changes to Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act may not be as sweeping as some think.

Legal experts say the language signed into law Thursday by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will only provide anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians in nearly a dozen Indiana communities, like Indianapolis, that have local ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“The interesting thing, talking about perception is that this ‘fix’ is actually fairly marginal,” Tom Lobianco said, a political analyst with The Indianapolis Star. “This ensures that this law will not trump that ordinance. But for everyone else, you’re at square one.”

Gay rights advocates are promising a new campaign at the Indiana Statehouse.

“We’ve struck a compromise,” Kathy Sarris said, with Indiana Equality Action. “They’re going to be hearing from us again.”

Advocates will push for a statewide anti-discrimination law protecting LGBT Hoosiers, something that exists in several states with religious freedom laws.

Leading Indiana Republicans said what transpired this past week was the springboard for that conversation.

“What has happened here is that discussion has begun,” House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said. “Whether Hoosiers want to have it or not.”

Katie Blair, campaign manager for Freedom Indiana, called the language incomplete.

“The truth is that civil rights protections have not been extended to all LGBT Hoosiers,” she said.

Eric Miller, president of Advance America, who pushed to keep the law as is, warns caution.

“You should not change Indiana’s civil rights law without a thorough debate open to the public,” he said.

Analysts say we haven’t likely seen the end of either debate.

“It does seem to create court scenarios,” Lobianco said. “Which is stay tuned. This is the next step.”

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