Lawmakers in Indiana are to consider a Bill to protect freedom of conscience, after the US Supreme Court last year allowed gay marriage in the state.
The proposals would allow small businesses such as florists, caterers and bakeries to decline to provide for same-sex ceremonies based on the owners’ beliefs.
The Bill also allows adoption agencies to only place children with heterosexual married couples.
Freedom of religion
Senator Scott Schneider, who introduced the legislation, said: “It’s important to have some religious freedom and protection.”
The American Family Association of Indiana is supporting the measure – Director Micah Clark said: “The freedom of conscience bill is really about limiting government’s ability to squelch freedom of religion, conscience or speech”.
The proposals are modelled on an existing federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
A similar Bill was backed by politicians in Michigan last month.
The ‘Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ would allow people to act or refuse to act according to their “sincerely held religious belief”.
Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger explained that the Bill was not a “licence to discriminate”.
“People simply want their government to allow them to practice their faith in peace”, he said.
In Northern Ireland, the DUP is consulting on amending equality legislation to introduce a conscience clause.
The aim is to clarify the law, in the wake of an equality quango’s legal action against a Christian-run bakery in the Province.
Lawyers for Ashers Baking Company deny that they breached any laws, but a conscience clause would help to prevent similar cases being brought in the future against people with firmly-held religious views.