Indiana lawmakers moved to change a religious-freedom law that Governor Mike Pence signed last week, seeking to quell a furor that erupted over claims that it sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians.
The revised legislation introduced Thursday bars businesses from refusing to serve gays and lesbians on religious grounds. The shift comes after Pence, a Republican, asked the legislature to alter the law because it provoked calls to boycott his state.
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“This is a good day for Indiana,” Senate President Pro Tempore David Long said to a committee of state representatives and senators, who are considering the proposed change. “It’s important in fixing this misperception that people also understand fully what a great group of citizens we have in Indiana.”
The religious-freedom law stoked a national controversy as similar measured were proposed in more than a dozen states, including Arkansas, North Carolina and Michigan.
Lobbying from companies including Apple Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Fiat Chrysler has slowed the drive to enact them. Following such pressure, Republicans have reconsidered measures that businesses say could damage the states’ reputations and economies.
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Indiana’s Pence denied that the law would have provided legal cover for bigotry, saying that it had been mischaracterized. The effort to address the controversy was welcomed by businesses in the state, which pushed for the adoption of explicit protections for lesbians and gays.
“We are anxious to help in the process of healing that must begin,” Bart Peterson, a vice president of the Indianapolis-based drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co., told a panel of the legislators considering the new bill.
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The shift in Indiana came a day after Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, refused to sign a similar bill following opposition from Wal-Mart, which is based in Bentonville. Lawmakers there are also revising the legislation to address the governor’s concerns.
Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder said through a spokeswoman Wednesday that he also wants specific protections for homosexuals before he’d sign a religious-freedom bill that’s pending there. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said in a March 30 radio interview that he would not sign one that’s before the Republican legislature.
“What is the problem they’re trying to solve?” asked McCrory on radio station WFAE in Charlotte.
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