Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) on Wednesday expressed sorrow over the backlash his state is facing over its new religious freedom law.
“I guess the one thing I will say is a lot of people are heartsick about this,” Daniels told USA Today.
“For those of us who feel like we spent years building up a great business climate and reputation for the state, you hate to see anything damage it in the way, at least for the moment, it has,” he added.
Daniels was governor of Indiana before Mike Pence, serving in that role from 2003 to 2013. On Wednesday, he declined to say whether he would have handled the divisive legislation differently than his successor.
“I don’t want to talk about that one at this point,” Daniels said. “I just don’t.”
Daniels now serves as the president of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. He said Wednesday that his administration usually courted less controversy by focusing on economic issues rather than social ones.
“We tried to keep active on things like that — big things, really important things, we felt, for the state,” Daniels said.
“So people could have disagreed, but not necessarily along the same lines you’re seeing right now,” he added.
Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law on March 26. It ignited a firestorm of criticism over concerns it allows discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The legislation quickly spawned a Twitter hashtag: #BoycottIndiana. Several prominent corporations and other state governments have since blacklisted the Hoosier State.
Pence initially said he would not change the law during a Sunday appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” The embattled governor has since shifted gears, asking state lawmakers on Tuesday to fix any portions potentially allowing discrimination.
The law’s supporters claim it guards against government meddling in business decisions based on faith.
Its critics, meanwhile, say it will let business owners discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals based on religious reasons.