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.
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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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