In his re-election speech before 800 Republicans, Indiana Governor Mike Pence appeared to leave the door open to adding sexual orientation and gender identity into the state’s civil rights law.
In his 15-minute address, Pence noted the harm that the Indiana suffered during the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) debate and he accepted some of the blame. The Governor also said that he would not tolerate discrimination, but also wanted to make sure religious freedom was protected.
Indiana was driven the brink of economic calamity over the RFRA debate. Opponents said it promoted discrimination against the LGBT community, while supporters said RFRA’s sole purpose was to defend religious liberty.
That led to the RFRA “fix”, where lawmakers amended the bill so it could not be used a defense in a discrimination case, however, critics said the only way to solve the problem was to add sexual orientation and gender identity into the statute.
Here is the excerpt from the Governor’s speech…
Some say we need a new direction in Indiana. I say the course we set in 2012 was the right course, focused on jobs schools workforce and quality of life. And the results speak for themselves. But make no mistake about it — the task ahead won’t be easy, because the task behind us was not either. Our opponents and liberal special interests across the country are already lining up. They think they can reverse the progress we’ve made. One need look no further than two months ago to understand why. Hoosier Hospitality came under attack, and as governor, I bear some responsibility for that.
Thoughtful debates are always welcome, they are always encouraged, but those seeking to divide us and hurt our people, hurt our state, will not succeed. Hoosiers see through it. What all Hoosiers agree on is the importance of freedom. The importance of fairness, of compassion and kindness. I will ensure our state remains true to those ideals but we will not cower to intolerance from any quarter. Unfortunately, this debate has become about winners and losers. In my eyes, through the lens of our Constitution and our values — we should not pick winners and losers. We should protect freedom. Period. And I look forward to working with anyone to ensure that is always the case.
In Indiana, we won’t tolerate discrimination against anyone. But Hoosiers also know, in the changing tides of popular culture, there must be room for faith. We will find our way forward as a state that respects the dignity and worth of every individual, and we will ensure that no government intervention, no government coercion will interfere with the freedom of conscience and freedom of religion enshrined in our state and federal constitution.
The Governor also touted Indiana’s successes, such as near record job creation and HIP 2.0, but he also acknowledged that the state needed to continue to address the skills gap and improve the health status of Hoosiers.
He also promised to respond “in kind” to any attacks by the Democrats.
You can hear the Governor’s address in the Leon-Tailored Audio above, it runs approximately 15 minutes.