Mike Pence is shocked, shocked at the pushback and furor he was told would happen if he signed RFRA:
Gov. Mike Pence, scorched by a fast-spreading political firestorm, told The Star on Saturday that he will support the introduction of legislation to “clarify” that Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.
“I support religious liberty, and I support this law,” Pence said in an exclusive interview. “But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there’s a way to clarify the intent of the law.”
The governor, although not ready to provide details on what the new bill will say, said he expects the legislation to be introduced into the General Assembly this coming week.
Asked if that legislation might include making gay and lesbian Hoosiers a protected legal class, Pence said, “That’s not on my agenda.”
He went on This Week to clarify and do damage control:
Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act will not be changing despite critics saying it allows business owners to discriminate against members of the LGBT community, state Gov. Mike Pence said today during an exclusive interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
Pence described the media coverage and opposition to the law as “shameless rhetoric,” saying it strengthens the foundation of First Amendment rights rather than discriminates.
“We’re not going to change the law,” he said, “but if the general assembly in Indiana sends me a bill that adds a section that reiterates and amplifies and clarifies what the law really is and what it has been for the last 20 years, than I’m open to that.”
When ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Pence if the law allowed businesses like florists to refuse to work with gay or lesbian weddings, as critics have said, the governor said the situation has more to do with whether the government is involved.
“The question here is if there is a government action or a law that an individual believes impinges on their religious liberty, they have the opportunity to go to court, just as the Religious Freedom and Reformation Act that Bill Clinton signed allowed them, to go to court and the court would evaluate the circumstance under the standards articulated in this act,” Pence said.
Pence, a Republican, signed the Indiana Religious Freedom and Restoration Act into Indiana law Thursday. It intends to prevent the government from infringing on individual’s religious beliefs, Pence said, but opponents say the law allows business owners to use religion as a reason to legally discriminate against members of the LGBT community.
You’ll note he didn’t answer the question, even when George pressed him again. He can’t answer the question, because the answer is obviously “Yes, florists can now discriminate legally against gay people.” Just ask the author of the bill:
— ReidDA (@ReidDA) March 28, 2015
He’s stuck, and he doesn’t know what to do, so he will keep denying and deflecting while Indiana loses millions of dollars in business and travel and tourism. It is always important to remember, that when discussing Mike Pence, that he is really, really, stupid, and that Matt Yglesias nailed this fact long ago:
There are very few members of congress with whom I’ve ever had the opportunity to discuss a substantive matter of public policy. But as it happens, one of them — the one with whom I’ve had the second-longest exchange — is Mike Pence (R-IN) who I’ve seen on television today repeatedly discussing the Republican Study Group’s “plan” for the financial crisis. And I can tell you this about Mike Pence: he has no idea what he’s talking about. The man is a fool, who deserves to be laughed at. He’s almost stupid enough to work in cable television.
Specifically, way back in 2005 I got to talk to him about Social Security privatization at a Heritage Foundation event. Obviously, I have my perspective on this and conservatives have theirs. But Pence had a truly peculiar idea. His idea was that the government ought to reassure people about the risks of losses under a privatization plan by having the government guarantee a minimum annuity level pegged to what’s promised under current law. This plan would, according to Pence, save money relative to current law because most people’s stock/bond portfolio would outperform the level needed to provide such an annuity, so the government would only need to kick in for a minority of people. I said I thought this would create a moral hazard problem for bad investors. He had no idea what I was talking about. Seemed unfamiliar with the term. Then I tried to explain it to him, I said that if the government guaranteed to bail you out in case of losses, then investors would make riskier investments and the number of people who need bailing out would rise. He just flat-out denied this, said the presence or absence of a guaranteed bailout would have no impact on investor behavior. He seemed unaware that some portfolios are riskier than others, or that higher average rates of return are associated with greater risk taking. He didn’t know anything at all, in short, about investing, financial markets, or, seemingly, the basic terms of public policy. And yet there he was speaking on the topic at Heritage. He’s a total fraud.
Which is all by way of introducing CAP VP for Economic Policy Michael Ettlinger’s critique of the Pence far-right crisis “plan” which, as you’ll see, is also utterly fraudulent. If cable news networks were run by people with any conscience, any sense of obligation or ethics, they would be treating this plan and its author as the joke they are. But of course they aren’t run by people with any conscience or any sense of ethics, so it’s all just treated as another subject for debate.
That was 2008, and I think the evidence shows he has not gotten brighter in the interim.