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Indiana passes RFRA “fix” | Arkansas, too

Indiana passes RFRA “fix” | Arkansas, too

UPDATED: Scroll to bottom.


 

Indiana’s Governor Pence has signed into law a “fix” to the RFRA law he signed last week reports Ben Friedman.

Acting with lightning speed, the Indiana General Assembly today used a pending bill on an unrelated matter as the vehicle to enact a so-called “fix” to the state’s recently enacted and controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (See prior posting.) Governor Pence immediately signed the measure (signing statement).  The new law adds language to RFRA that provides it may not be used as a justification for discrimination.  Senate Act No. 50 (full text) provides in part:

This chapter does not:

(1) authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service;

(2) establish a defense to a civil action or criminal prosecution for refusal by a provider to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service….

The law excludes from its anti-discrimination provisions any tax-exempt church or other nonprofit religious organization, including an affiliated school, as well as any member of the clergy when engaged in a religious or affiliated educational function.

Since Indiana does not have statewide legislation barring LGBT discrimination, the practical effect of the new amendments would appear to be primarily on local anti-discrimination laws, including one enacted by Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis Star reports:

Democrats said the changes didn’t go far enough. They wanted a repeal of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or full civil rights protections for gays and lesbians.

Business, civic and sports leaders who demanded a fix to Indiana’s divisive “religious freedom” law flanked Republican legislative leaders Thursday as they announced a new measure that would prohibit the law from being used to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Those leaders had overwhelmingly opposed the law, which many feared would allow discrimination against the LGBT community. But they embraced the fix unveiled Thursday morning and began to try to repair the damage that the controversy has wrought on Indianapolis’ once sterling reputation as a welcoming convention and sports city.

Speaking at the news conference were Allison Melangton, who headed planning for the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis, Jim Morris, vice chairman of the Pacers, former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson and Salesforce Marketing Cloud CEO Scott McCorkle.

See also, Friedman’s A Backgrounder on RFRA in Indiana and Arkansas published yesterday.

Update: Friedman reports Arkansas quickly enacts narrower version of RFRA than originally passed. “The law specifically provides that it is to be interpreted consistent with the federal RFRA and case law under it.”


Posted by John B. Chilton

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Wayne Rollins
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Wayne Rollins

So, after all this, what is the purpose of the law? Is there any point to not repealing it?

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Anand Gnanadesikan
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Anand Gnanadesikan

Actually there is a purpose in keeping it- which is to establish that state and local government actions burdening religious observance be motivated by a compelling state interest and that the least burdensome alternative is chosen. In other words, enacting the Federal protections into state law.

Hopefully this will act as it has done at the Federal level... protecting the rights of Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and minority religions in general.

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