Indiana governor signs bill that 'could allow discrimination against gay and lesbian couples'

A religious freedom law in Indiana has some upset about how the law will be enforced

Indiana Governor Mike Pence on Thursday signed into law a religious freedom bill that some say could lead to discrimination against gay and lesbian couples.

The purpose of the bill is to forbid the state from forcing people to provide services that violate their religious beliefs. Similar laws recently have been floated in other US states, as gay marriage increasingly has been legalised across the country.

Prior to the bill's signing, several businesses and conferences warned the state against ratifying the law. Now it appears that they could be fleeing the state of Indiana.

 

The Indiana House of Representatives on Monday approved the bill by a 63-31 vote, after the state Senate approved a similar bill last month. Dennis Kruse, a senator who authored the bill, said his chamber will concur with the House version.

After passage in the two legislative chambers, the bill went to the governor’s desk for a signature. Mr Pence previously had indicated that he would sign the bill.

Now that it has been signed, the bill prevents state and local governments from “substantially burdening” a person’s freedom of religion unless the government can come up with a compelling reason to do so.

Those who back the bill say it is a way to keep the government out of the religious beliefs of people and business owners. The opposition has seen it differently.

“The legislation is so broadly written that there may be unforeseen and harmful consequences to our state,” wrote the Indiana branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Moreover, the bills create a widespread and negative perception of Indiana by appearing to invite the use of religion to discriminate, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The ALCU said that in other states that have similar legislations it has seen pharmacists refuse to sell contraception and a school guidance counsellor refuse to help gay students, both because of religious beliefs.

 

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