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Religious rights bill now eligible for final House vote

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By Andi TenBarge

A bill that – depending on who describes it – either promotes discrimination or protects business owners’ religious beliefs moved forward Thursday in the Indiana House with no changes.

Senate Bill 101 is now eligible for a full vote by the House.

Supporters say it’s meant to give the courts direction in cases involving Hoosiers who choose not to engage in business activities that go against their religious beliefs.

The legislation comes a year after a heated debate to ban same-sex marriage and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said Hobby Lobby did not have to provide the morning-after pill as part of its healthcare benefits package.

“This bill acts as a shield and not a sword,” said Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, in talking previously about the legislation. “This bill does not legalize discrimination in any shape, manner or form. It does not pick a winner or a loser. And it does not place one faith, one denomination, and one belief system over another.”

The bill has already passed the Senate. On Thursday, it was eligible for amendment by the full House.

Democrats proposed several amendments they said would ensure the bill doesn’t protect people who discriminate against Hoosiers who are gay. But Republicans rejected those proposals.

Another amendment said that the law wouldn’t override local civil rights ordinances meant to protect homosexuals.

All the amendments were defeated.

Thursday’s debate brought nearly 100 protestors to the House gallery and hallway with signs urging the General Assembly either to pass or reject the legislation.

If the bill passes the House, it must return to the Senate, where members can consider changes approved in a House committee.

Andi TenBarge is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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