Will religious freedom law hurt Mike Pence in 2016?

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (Kelly Wilkinson, The Indianapolis Star via AP)

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (Kelly Wilkinson, The Indianapolis Star via AP)

This post was updated:

Could Indiana’s controversial religious freedom law hurt Gov. Mike Pence as he considers a 2016 presidential bid?

Pence, a Republican who is popular with evangelical and social conservatives, says the measure is aimed at ensuring that state and local governments do not interfere with people and businesses exercising their religious beliefs.

But critics argue the law, which takes effect July 1, would discriminate against gay men and lesbians. Concerns have come from Angie’s List and the NCAA, along with Apple CEO Tim Cook

Pence said Sunday he would consider legislation that “amplifies and clarifies”

The Republican governor says he will make a decision no earlier than April about whether he’ll seek the White House next year or run for a second term in Indiana. (State law does not allow Pence to do both.)

Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the Family Leader, told ABC News

“I think it definitely boosts his credibility, not just with a group like ours, but for any freedom-loving American who wants to have a full-spectrum conservative in the White House,” Vander Plaats says about Pence.

Tom LoBianco, a columnist for the Indianapolis Stargood for Pence

Now Pence is a hero to his base, and every Silicon Valley honcho and Hollywood star he stands up to only strengthens his standing.

Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a former aide in the Obama and Clinton administrations, said the corporate backlash on the Indiana law will send a signal to Republicans. The fight over what is broadly defined as religious freedom, or RF, illustrates a tug-of-war between the evangelicals and business-oriented wings of the GOP, she said.

“I think this will be a wedge issue in the Republican primary,” Tanden said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press

Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, pointed to the example last year of then-Arizona governor Jan Brewer vetoing Senate Bill 62, a measure that was similar to the Indiana law. Marriott, Apple and American Airlines, along with the NFL, were among those voicing opposition to the measure.

“You should not take threats from the business community very lightly,” Angelo said. “They can move quickly and cause a lot of pain to a state … because of legislation they perceive as harmful to the ability to attract the greatest talent to their business.”

While the fights over same-sex marriage in courts and at the state level have been prominent over the years, there is also a battle over a federal non-discrimination law that would protect the LGBT community from discrimination in employment, housing, public access and other areas.

A recent poll by the Human Rights Campaign

“Mike Pence blew open the door on this issue,” said Fred Sainz, vice president for communications and marketing for the Human Rights Campaign. “Candidates can’t be allowed to squirm out of this. The question has to be very direct: Yes or no, do you support legal non-discrimination protections for LGBT people. To the extent you say ‘no,’ that tells you a lot of where these people are coming from.”

Leave a Reply