Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), a likely 2016 presidential contender, is shifting his tone on Indiana's controversial religious-freedom law, saying the state should have taken a more "consensus-oriented approach."
“By the end of the week, I think Indiana will be in the right place, which is to say that we need in a big diverse country like America, we need to have space for people to act on their conscience, that it is a constitutional right that religious freedom is a core value of our country,” he told attendees at a Silicon Valley fundraiser, according to The New York Times.
"The better approach would have been the approach that is the more consensus-oriented approach I think," Bush added, according to Business Insider. "I’m not being critical of [Republican Gov.] Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceFormer professor claims she was fired in retaliation over COVID-19, criticism of Pence Jan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Pence to deliver address on 'educational freedom' in Virginia MORE, because I did say that I supported his efforts."
Bush reportedly cited a similar law in Utah as an appropriate way to write and pass religious freedom legislation.
His comments marked a change from earlier statements.
“I think Gov. Pence has done the right thing,” Bush told the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday.
"This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to have, to be able to be people of conscience. I just think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all," he said.
The controversial law sparked an immediate backlash after it was signed by the governor last week, leaving Pence, also a potential 2016 candidate, and state lawmakers looking for a fix.
Supporters say the law protects religious freedoms, but critics say it would give businesses legal cover to deny services to gay customers.
On Thursday morning, state lawmakers in Indiana announced they had agreed on changes to the law, including language clarifying that it does not justify denying services to someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The firestorm over the law has been severe, with several major corporations criticizing the law and at least one, Angie’s List, cancelling plans to expand its headquarters in Indiana.
The legislative fix, should it pass, also comes before the Final Four is played in Indianapolis. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has expressed concerns about how the law could harm student-athletes, and the coaches of all four teams released a joint statement saying they backed the NCAA’s position.
— Ben Kamisar contributed.