NewsPublic Affairs / January 12, 2016

Pence Says Religious Freedoms Take Priority

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature at the Statehouse.  - AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence delivers his State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature at the Statehouse.

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says he won't support adding state civil rights protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity if he believes that step would diminish religious freedoms.

Pence said in prepared remarks for Tuesday evening's State of the State speech that constitutional rights to religious freedom in worship, service or work are "too precious."

"Our constitution not only protects the 'right to worship Almighty God...according to the dictates of (our) own consciences,' but it also provides that 'No law shall, in any case whatever, control the free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions, nor interfere with the rights of conscience,'" Pence said.

Read the full text of Gov. Mike Pence's State of the State Address

LGBT rights advocates were disappointed with Pence's remarks. Freedom Indiana, a statewide grassroots organization, issued a statement following the State of the State Address saying it was "disappointed in [Pence's] lack of leadership" on the issue.  

"This is a complete letdown. In his speech tonight, after 10 months of allegedly listening to Hoosiers, Governor Pence chose to punt the critical issue of civil rights protections for gay and transgender people to Indiana lawmakers," the statement read.

Bills are pending in the Legislature to extend LGBT protections, and Pence has previously avoided taking a position on the issue. He didn't say in the prepared remarks whether he believed those bills would infringe on religious freedoms.

LGBT rights have become a major debate following the national uproar last spring over the state's religious objections law that critics argued sanctioned discrimination against gay people.

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