Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) seems acutely aware of the fact that he created a firestorm when he ignored warnings and signed a right-to-discriminate bill into law last week. He’s less sure what to do about it now.
The Republican governor, and possible presidential candidate, published a Wall Street Journal op-ed overnight in which Pence outlined his plan to address businesses that exploit his new law to discriminate against gay consumers: “If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore.”
As Rachel joked on the show last night, “So, if you were worried that gay people might be refused service by a business in Indiana now, don’t worry. That could never happen because the state has decided to wield the grave threat of depriving businesses of Mike Pence’s personal patronage.”
In the same piece, the Hoosier State governor suggested this whole mess can be traced back to Obamacare.
Many states have enacted [Religious Freedom Restoration Acts] of their own … but Indiana never passed such a law. Then in 2010 came the Affordable Care Act, which renewed concerns about government infringement on deeply held religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby and the University of Notre Dame both filed lawsuits challenging provisions that required the institutions to offer certain types of insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.Last year the Supreme Court upheld religious liberty in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, based on the federal RFRA. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, the need for a RFRA at the state level became more important, as the federal law does not apply to states. To ensure that religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law, this year the General Assembly enshrined these principles in Indiana law. I fully supported that action.
Hmm. Indiana businesses can now discriminate against gay people because of the ACA’s contraception policy?
This apparently wasn’t persuasive, either, leading Pence to announce this morning his support for a legislative “fix.”
Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana said on Tuesday that he hopes to sign legislation by the end of this week making it clear that his state’s controversial religious freedom law does not give businesses the right to deny service to anyone. […]Republicans who control the state Legislature said on Monday that they would work quickly to clarify the law, and they insisted that it was not meant to sanction discrimination.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law doesn’t give businesses the right to deny services to anyone,” Pence said. The GOP governor went on to blame others this morning for the entire fiasco, blasting the “harsh glare” of national criticism.
What this legislative fix might look like, and whether it will be sufficient, remains to be seen, though work will reportedly begin immediately. Note, with Republicans in control of all Indiana’s state government, Pence and his allies should be able to quickly approve any proposal they want.
Let’s also not forget that with several Republican presidential candidates endorsing the new law as-is, Pence isn’t doing the GOP’s 2016 field any favors by quickly looking to add “clarity” to the controversial anti-gay measure.