Mike Pence: Indiana governor dodges discrimination questions.

Indiana Governor Dodges Questions on Whether New Law Allows Anti-Gay Discrimination

Indiana Governor Dodges Questions on Whether New Law Allows Anti-Gay Discrimination

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March 29 2015 1:36 PM

Indiana Governor Dodges Questions on Whether New Law Allows Anti-Gay Discrimination

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting Leadership Forum on April 25, 2014, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Photo by John Gress/Getty Images

Indiana is the victim of an Internet misinformation campaign about the new “religious freedom law,” state Gov. Mike Pence said on ABC News on Sunday. But when he was asked direct yes-or-no questions about whether the measure could make it legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians, Pence repeatedly refused to answer.

“I understand that there’s been a tremendous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding around this bill, and I’m just determined—and I appreciate the time on your program—I’m just determined to clarify this,” Pence told ABC’s George Stephanopolous. Yet when he was given the chance to do just that, Pence repeatedly refused. “So this is a yes-or-no question,” Stephanopolous said. “Is Advance America right when they say a florist in Indiana can now refuse to serve a gay couple without fear of punishment?” Pence does not say yes or no, only explaining that “the purpose of this bill is to empower … individuals when they believe that actions of government impinge on their constitutional First Amendment freedom of religion.”

The ABC host insisted: “And so yes or no, if a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that legal now in Indiana?” Pence would not give in. “There's been shameless rhetoric about my state and about this law and about its intention all over the Internet. People are trying to make it about one particular issue. And now you're doing that, as well,” the governor answered. The governor ended up dodging the question six times.

Pence also rejected suggestions that Indiana could avoid the controversy if the state were to also protect sexual orientation under its civil rights laws. “That's not on my agenda,” he said. And while Pence insisted the law would not change, he repeated what he had earlier told the Indianapolis Star, saying that he would back legislation to “clarify” the intent of the law. "I support religious liberty, and I support this law," Pence said in an interview with the Star. "But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there's a way to clarify the intent of the law."

Since signing the bill into law on Thursday, Indiana has been widely criticized by both celebrities and business leaders, and the hashtag #boycottindiana has become popular on social networks, notes the Associated Press.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.