After days of vocal dissent by many, the states of Indiana and Arkansas have made changes to their Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bills, the New York Times reports. Both laws purported to protect religious freedom, but were heavily criticized as sanctioning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The bills themselves both went further than a federal law passed in 1993 protecting religious freedom, as each granted rights to corporations and provided that the laws would apply in suits between private citizens, without governmental involvement. Many expressed concerns that these bills would allow discriminatory practices, such as businesses denying service to individuals based on criteria such as sexual orientation.
According to the Times, the Indiana bill, which Governor Mike Pence had actually signed into law, has been amended to indicate that the law does not authorize anti-gay discrimination. Gov. Pence has now signed this into law. The Arkansas bill had passed the legislature, but Governor Asa Hutchinson sent it back to find a solution that did not authorize discrimination after the uproar occurred regarding the Indiana bill. Arkansas made changes to the bill to make it more closely mirror the federal law, but did not add language about discrimination. It passed the legislature and Gov. Hutchinson signed it into law yesterday.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported this week that Ohio's own version of RFRA died in the General Assembly last year, but that Governor Kasich has indicated support for such a bill as long as it does not promote discrimination. According to the article, there is no legislation pending on this issue in Ohio.
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