Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) is under intense scrutiny after signing into law a statute that purportedly allows businesses to discriminate against certain classes of Hoosiers. Pushing back against all the misinformation, however, Gov. Pence defended the law in a press conference on Tuesday, thereby hopefully setting the record straight and addressing the controversy head-on.
“Let me say first and foremost I was proud to sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week,” he said. “I believe religious liberty, as President Clinton said when he signed the federal law in 1993, [is] our first freedom and it is vital to millions of Americans who cherish faith as I and my family do. But it’s also vital to the framework of freedom in our nation.”
“This legislation was designed to ensure the vitality of religious liberty in the Hoosier State,” he continued. “But 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.”
He then dove into the specifics of the widely-pilloried bill.
“The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was about religious liberty, not about discrimination,” he said. “As I said last week, had this law been about legalizing discrimination I would have vetoed it. This law does not give anyone a license to discriminate. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana does not give anyone the right to deny services to anyone.”
“I don’t believe for a minute that it was the intention of the general assembly to create a license to discriminate or a right to deny services to gays, lesbians, or anyone else," he added. “But I can appreciate that’s become the perception, not just here in Indiana, but all across this country and we need to confront that."
He also announced, however, that the bill needed to be improved, and therefore would look to the state legislature first and foremost to help clarify and refine the bill’s language.
“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,” he said, urging state lawmakers to act as soon as possible. “ We want to make it clear that Indiana is open for business. We want to make it clear that Hoosier hospitality is not a slogan, it’s a way of life.”
“Let me say I believe this is a clarification, but it’s also a fix,” he added. "[The bill] through mischaracterization and confusion, has come to be greatly misunderstood. And I’m determined to address this [problem] this week.”
Not surprisingly, he also characterized the national media’s reporting vis-à-vis the bill as both “reckless” and “irresponsible”—although he conceded in recent days it had “gotten better.”