Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma says the state’s “religious freedom” act is now being updated so that it can’t be used to discriminate in employment, housing and public accommodations. At a press conference held in the Indiana Statehouse Thursday morning where Bosma was flanked by local business leaders, he said Indiana is a welcoming community and the law has been misinterpreted. Bosma took the time to apologize “not for actions taken, but the message received.”
Jim Morris, Vice President of Pacers Sports and Entertainment spoke on behalf of the business community during the press conference to offer corrections to the law. He acknowledged that the state and specifically the city of Indianapolis has worked hard over the last 50 years to become a welcoming place and that even the newspaper USA Today recently ranked Indy as “the number one convention city in America.” Morris said, “we’ve had some tough days the last few weeks where we’ve been misunderstood to who we are and what we stand for.” He went on to express his gratitude to the legislature, “the Indiana General Assembly will absolutely make the bold affirming statements that the religious act in no way can be used to discriminate.” Morris, who served as the tenth Executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, said the world is welcome here and once they come they will be well-received.
Chris Douglas also addressed the crowd assembled. Douglas is a gay, Republican, Indiana businessman who identified himself as an eighth generation Hoosier from a family of abolitionists. He’s also a founder of the Interfaith Coalition on Non-Discrimination and Founding President of the Indianapolis Rainbow Chamber of Commerce among other LGBT organizations and activities. In an emotional speech, Douglas addressed a ground-breaking move for this state. He said, “the measure announced today for the first time in Indiana law establishes sexual orientation and gender identity in the context of recognizing and protecting our rights as equal citizens of the state of Indiana.” He went on to say that this is only the beginning, “the end is that the equality guaranteed to all other Hoosiers through the Civil Rights Code is guaranteed to us.”
Also present with other business leaders was Indianapolis Urban League President/CEO Tony Mason, though he didn’t speak.
Indiana has been under fire since Governor Mike Pence signed the act into law. Critics say Indiana’s RFRA could have allowed for discrimination against gays and lesbians—and others. Pence was not in attendance at today’s legislative press conference, though he instructed the committee to work on RFRA’s clarification and have it on his desk by weeks’ end. It’s unclear if Pence will sign off on the changes to the law.
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