Indiana lawmakers strike deal to change religious freedom law
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Republican legislators in Indiana have struck a deal to change the state’s controversial religious freedom law in order to protect the LGBT community from discrimination.

“What was intended as a message of inclusion of all religious beliefs was interpreted as a message of exclusion, especially for the LGBT community,” Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) said at a Thursday press conference ahead of a committee hearing addressing those changes.

“Nothing could have been further from the truth, but it was clear that the perception needed to be addressed.”

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The change adds a new section to the Indiana code specifying that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not allow a business to refuse service to people based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It adds that the law can’t be used as a defense to refuse service toward any of those protected groups.

The Indianapolis Star posted a copy of the proposed bill Thursday morning, as Indiana lawmakers addressed it in a committee hearing.

The Star initially broke the news of an agreement on Wednesday night. David Long (R), Senate presidenet pro tempore, told the paper that there is “strong consensus” over the new measure.

The fix only applies to this specific law; lawmakers decided against designating LGBT people as a “protected class,” a legal designation that extends greater protection under anti-discrimination laws, in all cases. Protected classes currently include race, color, religion, age and disability.

There’s also an exemption for nonprofit religious organizations, including churches and schools, from the new language.

State groups reached by the Star are still criticizing the change from both sides as either an overreach or insufficient.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s (R) decision to sign the bill last Friday precipitated a national wave of criticism from civil rights organizations and business groups. On Wednesday, one day before the NCAA hosts its men’s basketball Final Four in Indianapolis, the head coaches involved released a joint statement bashing the law.

— Updated at 10:25 a.m.