Pence talks with legislators on religious law clarification


Republican legislative leaders met with Gov. Mike Pence on Wednesday morning as they continued work on a proposed clarification of Indiana's new religious freedom law, which some say could allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.

House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long spent more than 30 minutes in the governor's office a day after Pence renewed his defense of the law but urged the General Assembly to send him a clarification before this weekend's NCAA basketball Final Four in Indianapolis.

Bosma and Long said they want the clarification to address what they say is incorrect criticism of the law.

"We're actively talking, not just with the governor, but with members of the corporate and sports community," Bosma said. "I've had a couple of meetings with LGBT folks. I think we're moving in the right direction to clarify and preserve religious freedom and dispel the myth that this denies service to any category."

Bosma said discussions are focused on making sure the law could not be used to support the denial of goods, facilities or services to anyone. Democratic legislative leaders have said such a step would be insufficient for a law that's become a national embarrassment.

The Indiana law signed by Pence last week prohibits any laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Although the legal language does not specifically mention gays and lesbians, critics say the law is designed to shield businesses and individuals who do not want to serve gays and lesbians, such as florists or caterers who might be hired for a same-sex wedding.

Businesses and organizations — including Apple and the NCAA — have voiced concern over Indiana's law, and some college sports figures are boycotting the Final Four.

Long said negotiators were aiming to reach agreement on the clarification by Thursday.

"Words mean something here and so we're working through all that at the moment," he said. "I think we're closing in on something."

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