promised to revise a controversial law that some say discriminates
against gay people.
The law, which appears to allow businesses to
turn away homosexual customers if the owner has a religious objection,
has brought condemnation from gay rights groups and corporate giants
such as Apple since it was signed last week. While Jeb Bush and other
leading Republican presidential candidates have defended the law, it has
led to a storm of criticism that rocked a Midwestern state not used to
Mike Pence, Indiana’s Republican Governor, acknowledged that the law
created a “perception” his state was hostile to gay people. Photo / AP
Appearing emotional as he spoke to the
press, Mike Pence, Indiana’s Republican Governor, acknowledged that the
law created a “perception” his state was hostile to gay people.
believe in my heart of hearts that no one should be harassed or
mistreated because of who they are, who they love, or what they
believe,” Pence said. “But as I said, we’ve got a perception problem
here because some people have a different view.
And we intend to correct that.”
Pence said he
wanted legislation by the end of the week that “makes it clear that this
law does not give businesses the right to deny services to anyone”.
law, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, allows businesses
“the free exercise of religion”. It passed in the wake of several recent
cases in the US where bakeries and photography businesses have faced
prosecution or civil lawsuits after refusing to take part in same-sex
weddings, angering religious conservatives.
Critics have said
that the Indiana law would go further and could in theory allow a
restaurant owner to refuse to seat a gay couple if they were opposed to
homosexuality. Pence signed the original bill at a small ceremony joined
by several conservative activists accused of making derogatory comments
about gay people. One of the activists invited by Pence said
homosexuality was “treatable” and supports so-called “therapy” sessions
intended to change sexual orientation.
While same-sex marriage is
becoming increasingly accepted in the US – it is now legal in 37 of the
country’s 50 states – it remains a controversial issue among the
conservative voters who will help decide which Republican leads the
party into the 2016 presidential election.
Bush, who is opposed
to same-sex marriage, said he thought Pence had “done the right thing”
by signing the bill into law. “I think once the facts are established,
people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all,” he added.
Other Republican contenders, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, echoed
his sentiment in comments made before Pence announced he was altering