Less than a year after big business helped pressure Indiana Republicans to scale back their contentious new religious objections law, the state’s powerful business lobby has decided that step wasn’t enough.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the voice of the state’s business establishment, on Thursday called for Republican Gov. Mike Pence and the GOP-controlled Legislature to extend the state’s civil rights protections to bar discrimination against people based on their LGBT status.
“We believe this expansion is a necessary action for the General Assembly to take,” said group President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “After the negative perception of our state generated by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the spring, we need to get this right.”
For months, gay rights supporters and religious conservatives who clashed over the religious objections law have anticipated a bitter debate when the Legislature convenes in January — this time over enshrining protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Pence and key leaders in the GOP-controlled Legislature have gone to lengths to avoid discussing the matter publicly, even as they are having private conversations with prominent business leaders who support LGBT rights.
The issue drives a wedge between two stalwart pillars of the Republican Party’s base: the business establishment and social conservatives. Thus far, GOP leaders have struggled to bridge the gap. In a recent interview with WRTV-TV in Indianapolis, Pence indicated that he wonders whether the concerns of religious conservatives can be reconciled with those of gay rights supporters who want LGBT protections in the law.
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