Local lawmaker votes against bill

A state senator representing Johnson County voted against a bill seeking to clarify the state’s controversial religious freedoms act because he felt opponents were not negotiating in good faith on the issue.

Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, was one of 16 senators, including six Republicans, to vote against the effort to clarify the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by the governor last week.

The measure was approved by both the Senate and House on Thursday.

Waltz does not think the original language of the law allowed for people or businesses to legally discriminate against, lesbian, gay, transgender or bisexual people, and that the media turned the benign bill into a national controversy, he said. Any type of discrimination is disgusting, and he wouldn’t have voted for the original bill if he thought it enabled Hoosiers to discriminate, Waltz said.

Waltz voted against the clarification bill because opponents continued to escalate their demands for how to adjust the law, even after agreeing with proposals put forth by Republicans, he said.

After lawmakers agreed to language specifically banning discriminatory acts and to insert language to protect lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people, opponents continued pushing for additional protections that were not part of the negotiation. Opponents were trying to hold the legislature hostage on the issue, Waltz said.

“I became very convinced there was absolutely nothing we would be able to offer to the other side of this debate that would satisfy them,” Waltz said. “They were negotiating in bad faith.”

Indiana has been in the middle of a national discussion about its religious freedom bill in recent weeks. Supporters, including Gov. Mike Pence who signed the bill into law, said it bolstered protection of religious freedom and was modeled after a federal law approved in the 1990s. Opponents alleged vague language in the Indiana measure would allow businesses to discriminate against people and use the law to justify it.

The media switched the debate and made the religious freedom law about gay rights, which it’s not, Waltz said.

“When you’ve got millions of people reading things that are completely untrue, it’s very difficult to let truth and logic win. I hope my vote was to be able to keep this issue on point, which was sadly something that has not been successful this past week,” Waltz said.