Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) defended his state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal Monday evening, saying it's "not a license to discriminate."
Instead, Pence wrote in the op-ed, the law "simply mirrors" federal legislation signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 and similar measures in 30 other states.
"I want to make clear to Hoosiers and every American that despite what critics and many in the national media have asserted, the law is not a 'license to discriminate,' either in Indiana or elsewhere," Pence wrote. "In fact, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act reflects federal law, as well as law in 30 states nationwide. Indiana’s legislation is about affording citizens full protection under Indiana law."
In fact, the Indiana law is much different than federal or state laws that have been in place.
Those laws deal with disputes between the government and individual citizens. The Indiana law is the first to deal with potential lawsuits between individuals, according to ThinkProgress.
"The intent of the original RFRA was to ensure that religious minorities were protected from laws passed by the federal government that may not have been intended to discriminate against them, but had the effect of doing so," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, in a call with reporters Monday.
"It is disingenuous to say that the Indiana RFRA is substantially similar to the federal RFRA, or laws in other states," Warbelow added. "This bill allows all businesses, all corporations, to have religious beliefs and to assert those religious beliefs -- regardless of whether or not they are actually religious organizations. These are for-profit corporations we are talking about."
Last month, 30 legal scholars with expertise in religious freedom wrote a letter that the Indiana law would allow individuals to "take the law into their own hands."
The Indiana law could result in "employers, landlords, small business owners, or corporations, taking the law into their own hands and acting in ways that violate generally applicable laws on the grounds that they have a religious justification for doing so," reads the letter. "Members of the public will then be asked to bear the cost of their employer's, their landlord's, their local shopkeeper's, or a police officer's private religious beliefs."
Pence also argued in his op-ed that the law doesn't permit businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals. On Sunday, he dodged questions on whether business owners could deny service to gay individuals.
"I abhor discrimination. I believe in the Golden Rule that you should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,'” Pence wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore. As governor of Indiana, if I were presented a bill that legalized discrimination against any person or group, I would veto it."
Despite Pence's assurances, he has said he has no intention of advocating specific discrimination protections for LGBT individuals.
Pence's op-ed came after a flood of backlash over the law. The governors of Connecticut and Washington signed executive orders banning state-funded travel to Indiana on Monday and several businesses and Indiana corporate leaders have condemned the legislation.
Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.
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