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By Mike Perleberg
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Indiana lawmakers are expected to listen to testimony today on a bill that would repeal Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The law allowing businesses to object to providing services to individuals based on religious beliefs threw Indiana into the national spotlight last year. Gay rights groups called the law legalized discrimination in Indiana.
Senate Bill 66, which would repeal RFRA, will be up for debate in the Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. According to the Indianapolis Star, SB 66 would replace RFRA with similar heightened protections for “fundamental rights” granted by the state constitution, including freedom of religious expression, freedom of speech and the right to bear arms.
The legislation is authored by state senators R. Michael Young (R-Indianapolis), Phil Boots (R-Crawfordsville), and Jim Banks (R-Columbia City). Young said the first RFRA bill was “too messy”.
However, LGBT rights group Freedom Indiana has deemed SB 66 “Super RFRA” and say it could once again throw Indiana into the center of a national debate over religious freedom and LGBT rights, further damaging the state’s reputation.
“Senate Bill 66 is RFRA on steroids,” said Freedom Indiana campaign manager Chris Paulsen. “Not only would it reopen the national and international wounds caused by last year’s discriminatory RFRA legislation, it would make it easier to discriminate against any group currently or potentially protected under our civil rights law. Just when you thought lawmakers had learned a lesson from RFRA, a handful of them have decided to breathe life into a ‘Super RFRA.’”
A new report obtained by the Associated Press says last year’s RFRA fight cost Indianapolis 12 conventions and at least $60 million. Visit Indy said that 12 out-of-state groups surveyed said that the law played a role in their decisions to hold their events in other states.
In his State of the State address earlier this month, Governor Mike Pence said he will not support any bill that diminishes religious freedom or interferes with the constitutional rights of citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service, or work. The governor’s lack of support for a bill to strengthen LGBT civil rights protections may hamper efforts and motivation for lawmakers in the House and Senate send a bill to Pence’s desk.SHARE THIS STORY