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© Krantz News Service, April 2, 2015


After enacting a far-reaching Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Indiana lawmakers have responded to widespread criticism from the gay community by passing new legislation via an amendment to Indiana bill SB 50, and Gov. Mike Pence has signed it into law.

The new law states that businesses are not allowed to deny service to anyone on the basis of "sexual orientation" or "gender identity." Churches, religious organizations and clergy are exempt. Pence had asked for the new language to allay concerns about discrimination.

The effort is "an important step forward," Freedom Indiana campaign manager Katie Blair said, even as she called for further reform to block discrimination, according to The Associated Press.

However, religious leaders who supported the law voiced their dismay at the fix. "This new proposal guts the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and empowers the government to impose punishing fines on people for following their beliefs about marriage," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

Prior to this year 19 states had enacted some version of RFRA. That is because the U.S. Supreme Court held in City of Boerne v. Flores (1997) that states are not bound by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (2014), the U.S. Supreme Court said the federal act gave Hobby Lobby a religious exercise defense against the federal contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

Supporters of Indiana's RFRA, signed into law by Pence on March 26, had seen it as building on the federal RFRA.

However, the Indiana's RFRA is broader in scope than its federal namesake. During markup of SB 101, the state's RFRA bill, Indiana's Senate Judiciary Committee amended the language to specify that a claim or defense could be asserted not just against the government, but against a private party as well.

An early version of the bill stated that "(a) person whose exercise of religion is substantially burdened by a violation of this chapter may enforce this chapter against a governmental entity . . . . "

In the final version, the committee voted to add that the claim or defense could be asserted "regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding."

When Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson spotted similar private party language in that state's RFRA legislation, he balked. After he called for a bill that "mirrors" the federal law, the Republican-controlled legislature passed an updated version of the measure, and Hutchinson signed it.

The following states currently have RFRA Statutes:

Alabama Ala. Const. Art. I, 3.01

Arizona Ariz. Rev. Stat. 41-1493.01

Connecticut Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-571b

Florida Fla. Stat. 761.01, et seq.

Idaho Idaho Code 73-402

Illinois Ill. Rev. Stat. Ch. 775, ?35/1, et seq. Indiana 2015 SB 101, enacted March 26, 2015

Kansas Kan. Stat. 60-5301, et seq.

Kentucky Ky. Rev. Stat. 446.350

Louisiana La. Rev. Stat. 13:5231, et seq.

Mississippi Miss. Code 11-61-1

Missouri Mo. Rev. Stat. 1.302

New Mexico N.M. Stat. 28-22-1, et seq.

Oklahoma Okla. Stat. tit. 51, 251, et seq.

Pennsylvania Pa. Stat. tit. 71, 2403

Rhode Island R.I. Gen. Laws 42-80.1-1

South Carolina S.C. Code 1-32-10, et seq.

Tennessee Tenn. Code 4-1-407

Texas Tex. Civ. Prac. & Remedies Code 110.003

Virginia Va. Code 57-1

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