Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana addressed the backlash over his Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Sunday in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos.
"I support religious liberty, and I support this law," Pence said. "But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there's a way to clarify the intent of the law."
The law is meant to protect individuals and businesses from performing services that infringe on their religious beliefs. For example, a Christian business that does not want to serve a gay couple would have the freedom to withhold services without fear of legal retribution. Opponents of the law say that it is a blatant form of discrimination, and Stephanopoulos asked the governor whether he regretted signing the law into effect.
"Absolutely not," Pence said. "I signed the bill. The question here is if there is a government action or a law that an individual believes impinges on their religious liberty, they have the opportunity to go to court, just as the Religious Freedom and Reformation Act that Bill Clinton signed allowed them, to go to court and the court would evaluate the circumstance under the standards articulated in this act. We're going to continue to explain it to people who don't understand it, and if possible, we will find a way to amplify what this bill really is in the legislative process."
The governor held to his word, and early Monday morning, Republican leaders in the Indiana General Assembly spoke at a press conference to address the concerns and criticism from the public. While they ruled out a repeal of the law, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long noted that a clarification of the law is likely and that they are working to "remove the misconception" that the law would allow denial of services to anyone.
Several businesses and leaders have said that they will no longer do business with the state of Indiana in light of the law. Mayor Ed Murray of Seattle announced a ban on city employees traveling to Indiana for work using city funds. Marc Benioff, chief executive officer of Salesforce.com, said that his company would stop all business travel to the state, while Bill Oesterle, chief executive officer of Angie's List revealed that the company would no longer plan to expand its headquarters in the state.
"I just can't account for the hostility that's been directed at our state," Pence told the Indianapolis Star. "I've been taken aback by the mischaracterizations from outside the state of Indiana about what is in this bill. Despite the irresponsible headlines that have appeared in the national media, this law is not about discrimination. If it was, I would have vetoed it."
"Faith and religion are important values to millions of Hoosiers and with the passage of this legislation, we ensure that Indiana will continue to be a place where we respect freedom of religion and make certain that government action will always be subjected to the highest level of scrutiny that respects the beliefs of every Hoosier of every faith," Pence said in the statement announcing the law.