Indiana Gov. calls legislation backlash 'shameless rhetoric'

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez |

(ABC News / screen capture)

INDIANAPOLIS (Christian Examiner) -- Indiana Governor Mike Pence stood firmly behind his decision to protect religious freedoms in the Hoosier state this weekend despite LGBT attacks over the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" he signed into law last week.

"This is about protecting the religious liberties of every Hoosier of every faith," Pence told ABC News Sunday emphasizing that his signing the law was "absolutely not" a mistake.

Homosexual activists have targeted Pence because of Indiana's RFRA legislation, but the governor maintains that the law does not discriminate against gays and lesbians and has been "misrepresented" with "shameless rhetoric."

Pence has made repeated claims that media has driven the controversy behind the bill calling the resulting political firestorm "misunderstanding driven by misinformation."

"I'm just determined to clarify this" Pence said explaining the legislation does not apply "to disputes between individuals unless government action is involved."

The Governor pointed to the RFRA signed into law by President Clinton, which the Indiana law is drawn from, to substantiate the legislation and stated that in more than two decades the RFRA "has never been used to undermine anti-discrimination laws in the country."

Pence claimed that the real issue at hand was the hate from the left.

"There's a lot of talk about tolerance in this country today, having to do with people on the left, but here, Indiana steps forward, to protect the constitutional rights and privileges of freedom of religion for people of faith and families of faith in our state, and this avalanche of intolerance poured on our state is outrageous," he said.

The IndyStar reported Sunday that Pence expected and supported clarifying legislation to be introduced to the General Assembly this week.

Pence stated the new bill will show the RFRA does not discriminate against homosexuals, but will not make gays and lesbians a protected legal class.

"I support religious liberty, and I support this law," Pence told the news source. "But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there's a way to clarify the intent of the law."

Opponents of the law have suggested business owners would use religious grounds to deny services to members of the LGBT community.

The outcry sparked a number of organizations to publicly oppose the new law. In protest of the legislation, Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce.com, pledged to cancel corporate related travel to the Hoosier state.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, tweeted his dissension for the measure Friday. He later followed up the message Sunday in an opinion piece he wrote on the Washington Post's website calling the RFRA a "very dangerous ... wave of legislation"

Numerous celebrities and the NCAA, due to hold the men's Final Four basketball tournament in Indianapolis next week, also voiced criticism as well.

Pence ultimately said the law would not change and voiced surprise over liberals' reaction to the new law.

"I just can't account for the hostility that's been directed at our state," he said. "I've been taken aback by the mischaracterizations from outside the state of Indiana about what is in this bill."

He also asked that people begin to focus on the law instead of the issue of homosexual and transsexual rights.

"The question here is if there is a government action or a law that an individual believes impinges on their religious liberty, they have the opportunity to go to court, just as the Religious Freedom and Reformation Act that Bill Clinton signed allowed them, to go to court and the court would evaluate the circumstance under the standards articulated in this act," Pence said.