Pence defends religious freedom law: ‘Absolutely not’ a mistake

Updated

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Sunday defended his decision to sign a religious freedom bill into law, saying that it was ”absolutely not” a mistake.

In an interview on ABC’s “This Week” the Republican governor repeatedly dodged questions on whether the law would legally allow people of Indiana to refuse service to gay and lesbians, saying that residents of the state are “nice” and don’t discriminate and that “this is about protecting the religious liberty of people of faith and families of faith.”

Pence signed Senate Bill 101, also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, last Thursday – reportedly in a private setting rather that in front of the press – igniting a firestorm of backlash from within his state and across the country. Many have argued that the law is disguised to give the right to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds; supporters have said it simply protects peoples religious beliefs and prohibits government intrusion. 

Related: Indiana’s new religious freedom law sparks outrage

This weekend, Angie’s List, an online concierge to find companies to perform various household maintenance, announced it would not be expanding to its campus in Indianapolis over the new law, according to CEO Bill Oesterle, who in a press conference called the law “very disappointing.”

Pence on ABC Sunday responded to the fury by saying it’s all been just one big misunderstanding. “I understand there’s been a tremendous amount of misunderstanding and misinterpretation,” he told host George Stephanopoulos. Pence, to make things more clear, plans to support new legislation that would aim to “clarify” the law.

He first shared news of new legislation with the Indy Star late Saturday, where he said that while he supports religious liberty, “we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there’s a way to clarify the intent of the law.” The legislation, which is expected to come out this week, will remain hairy on rights for LGBT people. Making gay and lesbians in the state of Indiana a legal class – which would protect LGBT people under the law – is not on Pence’s “agenda,” he told both the Indy Star on Saturday and the ABC host on Sunday. 

Asked by Stephanopoulos hypothetically if a florist in Indiana refused to serve a gay couple at their wedding if that would be legal now in Indiana, the governor skirted the question on multiple occasions. “It’s a yes or no question” Stephanopoulos probed, to no clear response. 

Instead, Pence continued to slam the media for its “shameless rhetoric” in its coverage, saying that “people are trying to make it about one particular issue.”

Pence said he has reached out to business leaders to clarify the ”gross mischaracterization” of the law, insisting that it is not about discrimination. 

Angie’s List was expected to begin expansion on the project this week, which would have added 1,000 new jobs in the Hoosier State. ”We were very excited about this project,” spokeswoman Cheryl Reed told msnbc

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, which is also based in Indianapolis, has also expressed concern, as celebrities, politicians and business leaders have all come forward to rail against the new law. According to the Associated Presshundreds of demonstrators rallied against the law Saturday outside the Indiana Capitol.

Indiana and Mike Pence

Pence defends religious freedom law: 'Absolutely not' a mistake

Updated