Indiana Gov. Mike Pence defended his state's controversial religious freedom law in a press conference on Tuesday by claiming that he abhors discrimination. But Pence has always opposed adding LGBT people to civil rights laws that would protect them in the workplace, housing, and places that serve the public — going back to his congressional campaign in 2000.
- "Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexual's [sic] as a 'discreet [sic] and insular minority' entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities."
- "Congress should oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage."
- "[B]ringing an end to the 'don't ask/don't tell' policy of permitting homosexuals to serve in the armed forces. Homosexuality is incompatible with military service because the presence of homosexuals in the ranks weakens unit cohesion."
Pence still holds some of these positions to this day. Asked by the Indianapolis Star's Tim Swarens whether he will add explicit legal protections for gay and lesbian Indianans, Pence reportedly said, "That's not on my agenda."
However, the governor, who is under fire for signing a religious freedom law last Thursday that critics say will allow discrimination against LGBT people, has vowed to clarify the law's intent to make clear that it doesn't permit discrimination against gay and lesbian Hoosiers. The law is meant to prohibit governments from infringing on a person's religious beliefs without a compelling interest.
But since Indiana doesn't have statewide civil rights laws that protect LGBT people, many local businesses can already legally discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, regardless of the religious freedom law.