Indiana Gov. Mike Pence today signed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law—in a ceremony that was held behind closed doors for "no particular reason," says his rep. What it is, and what it means for Indiana, per the AP and Indianapolis Star:
- What the new law does: prohibits state and local laws that "substantially burden" the ability of people—including businesses and associations—to follow their religious beliefs. That means the government won't be able to compel people to provide such things as catering or photography for same-sex weddings or other activities they find objectionable on religious grounds.
- Is the bill unique? No. While Indiana is the first state to enact such a change this year among about a dozen where such proposals have been introduced, 19 other states have similar laws on the books.
- Pence's response to the criticism: "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it." He also pointed to the existence of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Congress enacted in 1993.
- How it could hurt the state: Some groups that hold conventions there say they may reconsider their plans to do so. The bill signing comes just more than a week before NCAA men's Final Four games at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis; the NCAA says "we are examining the details of this bill ... the NCAA national office is committed to an inclusive environment where all individuals enjoy equal access to events."
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