Pence Hopes to Sign RFRA 'Fix' by the End of the Week

By Susan Jones | March 31, 2015 | 12:05pm EDT

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence holds a news conference at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 26, 2015, praising the legislation as an opportunity to support religious conscience for "every Hoosier of every faith.". (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

( - "It's been a tough week here in the Hoosier State," Gov. Mike Pence (R) told a news conference on Tuesday, as he announced that he will sign a measure clarifying that the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was not to allow discrimination or deny services to anyone, including homosexuals.

"After much reflection and in consultation with the leadership of the General Assembly, I've come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone.

"Let me say that again: I think it would be helpful -- I'd like to see on my desk before the end of this week, legislation that is added to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone."

The exact language of that legislation is still being worked out. He called it "fix."

"We want to make it clear that Indiana is open for business."

Pence said the law he signed last week "was designed to ensure the vitality of religious liberty in the Hoosier state."

He said he would have vetoed any bill that allowed anyone to discrimate. "But clearly -- clearly there's been misunderstanding and confusion and mischaracterization of this law, and I come before you today to say how we're going to address that."

Indiana Republicans are now under intense pressure from liberal activists to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected groups under state civil rights law. But Pence said he does not support such a move. "It's not on my agenda," he said.

He said he wants the General Assembly to focus on the issue at hand, including the "smear that's been leveled against the people of Indiana."

"I don't believe for a minute that it was the intention of the General Assembly to create a license to discriminate or to deny services to gays, lesbians or anyone else in this state. And it certainly wasn't my intention. But I can appreciate that that's become the perception, not just here in Indiana but all across this country. And we need to confront that, and confront it boldly in a way that respects the interests of all involved."

Asked if he was expected such a "backlash" after signing the bill, Pence said, "Heavens, no."

"To be candid with you, when I first heard about the legislation, and heard that it was already federal law for 20 years and heard that it was the law through statute and court decisions in 30 jurisdictions -- in the wake of last  year's Supreme Court case, the Hobby Lobby case -- I just though it was an appropriate addition to Indiana statues.

The governor noted that the RFRA moved through the legislature without much controversy.

"And so candidly, when this erupted last week, even though I made my position clear weeks ago that I would sign the bill, without  much discussion -- I was taken aback."

Pence said the law he signed last week was intended to give people (and businesses and other entities) the "the highest level of scrutiny" by the courts in cases where they feel their religious liberty is being infringed upon by state laws or government action.

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