Rubio Defends Indiana’s ‘Religious Freedom’ Law

The issue has split social conservatives and Republican-leaning business groups.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) addresses the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) February 27, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland. Conservative activists attended the annual political conference to discuss their agenda.
National Journal
Patrick Reis and Michael J. Mishak
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Patrick Reis and Michael J. Mishak
March 30, 2015, 3:03 p.m.

Sen. Marco Ru­bio on Monday par­tially de­fen­ded a new re­li­gious-free­dom law in In­di­ana that crit­ics say sanc­tions dis­crim­in­a­tion against same-sex couples.

At is­sue is an In­di­ana law, signed Thursday by Re­pub­lic­an Gov. Mike Pence, that al­lows people (in­clud­ing busi­nesses), when they’re sued for dis­crim­in­a­tion, to ar­gue that the al­legedly dis­crim­in­at­ory be­ha­vi­or was an ex­pres­sion of their faith. Sup­port­ers say that’s a com­mon-sense de­fense of the free­dom to prac­tice one’s own re­li­gion, while crit­ics say that it would give busi­nesses leg­al cov­er for an­ti­gay dis­crim­in­a­tion.

Ru­bio, speak­ing on Fox News, ap­peared sym­path­et­ic to the former ar­gu­ment: “I think the fun­da­ment­al ques­tion in some of these laws is should someone be dis­crim­in­ated against be­cause of their re­li­gious views. So no one is say­ing here that it should be leg­al to deny someone ser­vice at a res­taur­ant or a hotel be­cause of their sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion,” he said.

“Should someone who provides a pro­fes­sion­al ser­vice be pun­ished by the law be­cause they re­fuse to provide that pro­fes­sion­al ser­vice to a ce­re­mony that that they be­lieve is in vi­ol­a­tion of their faith? I think people have a right to live out their re­li­gious faith in their own lives,” Ru­bio said. 

Spokespeople for Ru­bio—who is ex­pec­ted to an­nounce later this month that he’s run­ning for pres­id­ent—were not avail­able for fur­ther cla­ri­fic­a­tion of his stance on the law.

Ru­bio’s re­marks come amid a na­tion­al fur­or over the In­di­ana law. LGBT-rights groups have called for a boy­cott, and polit­ic­al or­gan­iz­a­tions and busi­nesses have pulled plans to do busi­ness in In­di­ana.

Along with the fight between so­cial con­ser­vat­ives and gay-rights ad­voc­ates, the law has also pro­duced a di­vide between tra­di­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an con­stitu­en­cies. Busi­ness-ori­ented groups such as the In­di­ana Cham­ber of Com­merce are op­pos­ing the meas­ure and sim­il­ar ones that have been in­tro­duced in states na­tion­wide, while so­cially con­ser­vat­ive re­li­gious or­gan­iz­a­tions are strongly in fa­vor.

Sam Baker contributed to this article.
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