Indiana Governor Pence Signs Amended RFRA Bill Into Law

The state of Indiana is once again in the national spotlight, this time for amending a law that had many people up in arms.

USA Today is reporting that the Indiana house, senate, and governor Mike Pence finalized an amendment to the RFRA, or Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The original bill, SB 101, was approved and signed into law by governor Pence last Thursday, caused a furor throughout the nation because many perceived the law would allow businesses to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens of Indiana.

The original bill, which stated that the state or local governments are prohibited from significantly burdening a person from exercising their freedom of religion unless the govermental body can show a compelling interest to do so. The bill is set to go into effect July 1. Though not specifically stated in the original bill, LGBT advocates believed the bill could be used as a discriminatory tool against them.

The nation erupted in protest against the state, focusing on Pence. The backlash swelled to unbelievable proportions, including Indiana native David Letterman making Pence the focus of one of Letterman’s Top Ten segments.

Indiana politicians began reworking the bill on Friday, the day after Pence signed the original bill. For the next six days, proponents and opponents debated over the language and meanings, until they came up with a compromise Wednesday afternoon. The Indiana house and senate affixed the amended language to another unrelated bill, and voted to approve the bill. Pence soon received the bill at his desk and signed the bill into law.

According to CNN, the new bill’s language specifically states that the bill cannot be used to discriminate against LGBT citizens of Indiana. This is the first time the Indiana government specifically recognizes the rights LGBT persons. It does not guarantee their rights, however, just recognizes their rights. That fight will come later, when Indiana legislators argue to amend Indiana’s anti-discriminatory law to include LGBT persons.

Yet, with the amended language and speed of the changes, neither side seems to be happy.

Social conservatives felt the bill went too far and needed either reamended or removed and tried again. Proponents felt the bill did not go far enough and needed to be reamended or removed and tried again. Either way, Indiana government officials were compelled to do something.

“What was intended as a message of inclusion was interpreted as a message of exclusion, especially for the LGBT community,” Indiana house speaker Brian Bosma said Thursday morning. “Nothing could have been further from the truth, but it was clear the perception had to be addressed.”

[Image courtesy of freep.com]