US: Religious freedom law weakened after LGBT backlash

The governor of Indiana has bowed to pressure from LGBT campaigners to change a religious freedom law.

Ahead of the amendment, state governor Mike Pence said there had been “misunderstanding and confusion and mischaracterization of this law”, confirming that he ‘abhors’ discrimination.

The aim of the legislation had been to ensure a person’s right to exercise their religion is not substantially burdened by the state, especially in light of the US Supreme Court last year allowing gay marriage in Indiana.

Discrimination

On Thursday, Pence signed a revised version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) after a campaign backed by gay rights groups, business leaders and celebrities put pressure on him to change the legislation.

The campaigners claimed the original wording of the RFRA endorsed discrimination and took to social media to oppose it.

Compelled

But pro-family groups are warning that the amendment will result in people being compelled to act against their deeply held beliefs.

Advance America, a group that originally supported the law, said in a statement that, “Christian bakers, florists and photographers would now be forced by the government to participate in a homosexual wedding” or face being punished.

A similar law was amended before being signed into law in the state of Arkansas.

Pressure

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee told the media that gay rights campaigners had coerced corporations into putting pressure on Arkansas and Indiana to change the legislation.

He also criticised companies for opposing the RFRA while also doing business with countries that have appalling human rights’ records.

The law is based on existing federal legislation, which was signed into law more than 20 years ago.

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