The Dust has Settled in Indiana and Arkansas. Here's What Happened

April 3rd 2015

Mike Vainisi

Both Indiana and Arkansas have now passed revisions to the religious freedom measures that created controversy this week and last. Here's a recap of what happened.


In Indiana, Governor Mike Pence (R) signed a revision that eliminated a provision in the original law that would have superseded local ordinances that protected against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The fix eliminates a provision in the original law that would have allowed a business to use religious freedom as a defense against allegations of discrimination based on sexual orientation. But because only Indianapolis and 10 other municipalities in Indiana have ordinances that make such discrimination illegal, the fix only really applies in those places. In the meantime, LGBT activists are calling for Indiana to go a step further and pass statewide protections.

"In the midst of this furious debate, I have prayed earnestly for wisdom and compassion, and I have felt the prayers of people across this state and across this nation. For that I will be forever grateful," Gov. Pence said in a statement accompanying the bill.

The process for creating the fix included some backroom dealing between Republican leaders in the state and influential business leaders, including Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the original law. The Indianapolis Star described the process:

Alterations to the law were hammered out in private over the past week between Republican legislative leaders and some of Indiana's biggest corporate power brokers, including Salesforce Marketing Cloud CEO Scott McCorkle and Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Mark Miles. The proposal was then signed off on, in private, by House and Senate Republicans on Wednesday before being unveiled publicly Thursday morning.

Gov. Pence said the fix represents Indiana's values:

"Our state is rightly celebrated for our pro-business environment, and we enjoy an international reputation for the hospitality, generosity, tolerance and kindness of our people. Hoosier hospitality is not a slogan; it is our way of life. Now that this is behind us, let's move forward together with a renewed commitment to the civility and respect that make this state great."

The country will remain focused on Indiana through the weekend as the NCAA men's basketball Final Four gets started in Indianapolis tomorrow afternoon.


Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) refused to sign the first version of the RFRA sent to his desk by his state legislature. That bill drew the same concerns -- that the wide scope of religious freedom protections could be construed to allow businesses to discriminate.

In the midst of the outrage over Indiana's initial law, which had been passed just days earlier, Hutchinson asked for a fix. And yesterday he got one. He signed a new version that is more narrowly focused on protecting the religious freedom of religious organizations and eliminates worries that the law would be used as a defense by businesses aiming to discriminate.

The governor says the new law closely follows the federal RFRA, which was signed into law by President Clinton in the 1990s. Thirty-one other states have laws similar to the federal RFRA.