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Indiana Religious Freedom Law Debate Heating Up With Calls For Further Clarification

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A new law in Indiana was signed on Thursday and since then, the state has earned a number of criticisms from businesses and organizations across the nation and even on social media where it was referred to by the hashtag #boycottindiana. On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered outside the Indiana Statehouse and protested against the new state law. Some of them were seen carrying signs that read "No hate in our state" and "I'm pretty sure God doesn't hate anyone."

Angie's List, a consumer review service, has decided to suspend an intended expansion in the state as a result of the new law. Prior to the bill's signing, the service had sought an incentive package of $18.5 million from Indianapolis' City-County Council as part of its mission to add 1,000 jobs for the next five years. However, founder and CEO Bill Oseterie said that he is placing the expansion on hold "until we fully understand the implications of the freedom restoration act on our employees."

Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Mike Pence and supporters of the law reiterated that the protesters' claim of the law's discriminatory nature seemed overblown. Pence insisted that the new law will not in any way compel people to provide services which they believe should be objected against based on religious grounds. Moreover, Pence and his supporters maintained that courts have not allowed discrimination under the same laws covering the federal government and the other 19 states.

Indianapolis Democrat and State Rep. Ed DeLaney was not convinced and stated that in essence, the new law opens the door to discrimination.

"This law does not openly allow discrimination, no, but what it does is create a road map, a path to discrimination," said DeLaney as he addressed the crowd on Saturday.

The newly signed bill, which becomes effective beginning on July 1, prohibits state or local governments from substantially burdening a person's ability when exercising his religion. However, this can be allowed if the government can show that there is a compelling interest and that the action to be carried out is the least-restrictive means of achieving it.

Opponents of the bill believe that it could allow business owners to use religion as their basis for denying services to gays and lesbians.

Pence has been having talks with legislative leaders and expects that a clarification bill will be produced in the coming week. He declined to give details but had admitted that making gay and lesbian residents in Indiana a protected legal class is not part of his agenda.

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