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Pence: Ind. lawmakers working on fix for religious freedom law

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) said Tuesday he has plans to retool a new state law that critics say allows businesses to deny service to gay people, but defenders insist is only intended to protect religious freedom.

“Well let me say first and foremost, I stand by this law,” Pence said on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.” “But I understand that the way that some on the left and frankly some in the national media have mischaracterized this law over the last week might make it necessary for us to clarify the law through legislation.”

{mosads}He added that he had been “working through the day and late into the night last night with legislative leaders to consider ways to do that.”

The law allows business owners to refuse to do something that would place a “substantial burden” on their religious beliefs. LGBT advocates say this could essentially sanction discrimination and might effect gay and lesbian couples who are getting married — since they might deal with vendors who do not agree with same-sex marriage.

Pence seemed more open than before to allowing debate over passing a statewide non-discrimination law that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, which would likely mitigate what critics say are the negative effects of the religious freedom law.

“Let me say, that’s not been my position — that’s not been the position of the state of Indiana — but if the legislature brought that up, they can certainly have that debate,” Pence said.

In an appearance on ABC on Sunday, he had given the suggestion of a non-discrimination law less weight.

“I will not push for that,” he said on “This Week.” “That’s a — that’s not on my agenda and that’s not been the — that’s not been an objective of the people of the state of Indiana. And it doesn’t have anything to do with this law.”

Pence will host a press conference later on Tuesday morning to address the controversy over the law, and possibly announce new legislation.

His appearance on Fox comes after a day of intensifying outrage over the law. Several major corporations have expressed concerns, and the Indiana-based Angie’s List canceled a multimillion-dollar expansion of its headquarters in response to the legislation.

With just days to go until the men’s Final Four in Indianapolis, the NCAA said it was concerned about how the law could affect student-athletes.

And Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) banned all state-funded travel on Monday to any states “that create the grounds for such discrimination.”

On Monday night, the Indianapolis Star editorialized that the legislature should pass the proposed non-discrimination law. The front page of the Star‘s print edition carried the editorial — a rare occurrence for a newspaper — with an unambiguous headline: “Fix this now.”

Pence seemed to echo those words on Tuesday morning.

“It’s important to me in this process, and we’ll do it through legislation, that people know that Indiana is standing here for religious liberty but there was never any intention in this law to create a license to discriminate,” he said. “And we’ll clarify that in the days ahead and we’ll fix this and move forward.”

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