After the passage of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act was met with strong opposition and criticism, Indiana Governor Mike Pence announced that the law would be amended to ensure that it would not tolerate discrimination.The amendment to Indiana’s RFRA passed on April 2.
One group that had spoken out against the original RFRA and worked to pass the amendment was Visit Indy. According to Visit Indy, the amendment has received wide support. The amended RFRA has legislative language added directly into the law which states that “providers,” which includes individuals and businesses, cannot “refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or United States military service.” The amended RFRA further states that the law cannot be used to “establish a defense to a civil action or criminal prosecution for refusal by a provider to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or United States military service.”
Governor Pence’s decision to amend RFRA had gained support from several sports organizations that previously expressed serious concerns. One organization in particular was the NCAA, which hosted the Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. In response to the amendment, NCAA President Mark Emmert said, “We are very pleased the Indiana legislature is taking action to amend Senate Bill 101 so that it is clear individuals cannot be discriminated against. NCAA core values call for an environment that is inclusive and non-discriminatory for our student-athletes, membership, fans, staff and their families. We look forward to the amended bill being passed quickly and signed into law expeditiously by the governor.” Prior to the passage of the law, Emmert had expressed his disapproval. Though there were no plans of moving the tournament, Emmert did say, “Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”
Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics was also in favor of the amendment after previously expressing concerns. USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said, “USA Gymnastics believes the proposed language for SB 101 (RFRA) goes a long way toward addressing the concerns about the bill and possible discrimination, as well as representing the inclusive spirit of the citizens of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana. We also appreciate and want to recognize the commitment of the public and private leadership to find a positive resolution. We remain hopeful that the proposed language changes will be unequivocally accepted and enacted immediately.”
When the law was passed on March 26, the RFRA “prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” Critics said the law would essentially allow the state’s businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers based on religious grounds. The long list of those who spoke out against the new law included universities, government officials, businesses and celebrities. Although the proposed fix to the law quelled some concerns, some groups were still skeptical.
Angie’s List had been planning an expansion project in Indianapolis but halted the project after Governor Pence signed the bill into law. The Indianapolis-based company was doubtful that the amendment would be able to effectively solve the problem of discrimination. According to the Indianapolis Star, Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle said, “Our position is that this ‘fix’ is insufficient. There was no repeal of RFRA and no end to discrimination of homosexuals in Indiana.”
Another group that took a stance against the new law was the University of Connecticut. In support of Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy’s travel ban to Indiana, UConn President Susan Herbst announced that Kevin Ollie—the men’s basketball coach—and his staff would not travel to the Final Four and the events surrounding it. She said, “UConn is a community that values all of our members and treats each person with the same degree of respect, regardless of their background and beliefs, and we will not tolerate any other behavior.”
NBA legend Charles Barkley also spoke out against the new law. “Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me,” said Barkley. “As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states’ cities.”
Several prominent national governing bodies based in Indianapolis had also voiced their disapproval. USA Diving, which is based in Indianapolis and will be hosting the Olympic Diving Trials in Indianapolis next year, issued a statement from President and CEO Linda Paul: “Indiana’s new legislation goes against our values as an organization. It does not represent what USA Diving stands for, and we believe it is not an adequate reflection on the people of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana.” And in an issued statement, Max Siegel, CEO of Indianapolis-based USA Track & Field, said: “We are deeply concerned by the legislation Governor Pence has signed into law and stand with the International Olympic Committee, who in December pledged to strengthen the sixth fundamental principle of Olympism, to include non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”