Gov. Mike PenceMike (Michael) Richard PenceThe Trail 2016: Drip, drip, drip... GOP lawmakers call for Clinton Foundation special prosecutor The Hill’s 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ind.) on Sunday vowed his state would not alter its religious freedom legislation after criticism that it may permit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“George, look, we’re not going to change the law, OK?” Pence told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”
“I stand by this law,” he continued. “It represents a fundamental protection for individuals.”
Pence, a possible 2016 GOP presidential candidate, also criticized most of the debate over the law as “shameless rhetoric.”
Many of the law’s critics, he added, have used the “red herring” of discrimination to mischaracterize the bill’s intent.
“Hoosiers don’t believe in discrimination,” Pence argued. “Anyone who has been to Indiana for five minutes knows Hoosier hospitality is not a slogan, it’s a reality.”
Pence said the Restoring Religious Freedom Act only applied to cases in which Indiana’s government interfered in faith matters. It was not intended for disputes between private entities, he added.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest disputed this idea in his own “This Week” appearance. He said public backlash over the law showed Americans believe it may have unintended consequences.
“We’ve seen business leaders all across the country say they’re now reluctant to do business in Indiana, not because they don’t like the people, but because of this law,” Earnest said.
“So the fact is, you know, that Governor Pence is in damage control this morning, and he’s got some damage to fix,” he added.
Protesters on Saturday marched to the Indiana State Capitol in Indianapolis over the controversial new law. They chanted “fix the bill” and several anti-discrimination slogans.
Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted Friday that he was “disappointed” by the law.
Two other prominent tech companies, Yelp and Salesforce, vowed last Thursday they would boycott Indiana while the law still stands.
Pence signed the law last Thursday. His decision almost immediately produced a Twitter hash tag trend dubbed #BoycottIndiana.
The law’s defenders maintain it will protect businesses from government meddling in their faith-based decisions.
Its critics, meanwhile, argue that it would allow business owners to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals based on religious reasoning.