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The latest developments on religious-objection laws – U-T San Diego

Demonstrators wave flags as they attend a rally at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, March 31, 2015, in protest of a bill passed by the state House critics say will lead to discrimination against gays and lesbians. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

photoIndiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks question during a news conference, Tuesday, March 31, 2015, in Indianapolis. Pence said that he wants legislation on his desk by the end of the week to clarify that the state’s new religious-freedom law does not allow discrimination against gays and lesbians. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)The Associated Press

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks question during a news conference, Tuesday, March 31, 2015, in Indianapolis. Pence said that he wants legislation on his desk by the end of the week to clarify that the state’s new religious-freedom law does not allow discrimination against gays and lesbians. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

photoThis photo shows the front page of The Indianapolis Star on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. The newspaper is urging Indiana lawmakers in a front-page editorial to respond to widespread criticism of a new religious objections law by protecting the rights of gays and lesbians. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star)The Associated Press

This photo shows the front page of The Indianapolis Star on Tuesday, March 31, 2015. The newspaper is urging Indiana lawmakers in a front-page editorial to respond to widespread criticism of a new religious objections law by protecting the rights of gays and lesbians. (AP Photo/The Indianapolis Star)

photoBarbara Hall of Little Rock, far right, cheers with about 200 other demonstrators on the steps of the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, March 31, 2015. The rally was in protest of a bill passed by the state House that critics say will lead to discrimination against gays and lesbians. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)The Associated Press

Barbara Hall of Little Rock, far right, cheers with about 200 other demonstrators on the steps of the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, March 31, 2015. The rally was in protest of a bill passed by the state House that critics say will lead to discrimination against gays and lesbians. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

photoRep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, right, is congratulated by Rep. Mike Holcomb, D-Pine Bluff, top left, as Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, bottom left, watches after passage of a bill presented by Ballinger at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, March 31, 2015. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)The Associated Press

Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, right, is congratulated by Rep. Mike Holcomb, D-Pine Bluff, top left, as Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, bottom left, watches after passage of a bill presented by Ballinger at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, March 31, 2015. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

photoState Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, reacts after passage of a bill he presented in the House chamber at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Arkansas lawmakers have given final approval to a religious-freedom bill that has drawn sharp criticism from opponents who say it opens the door to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)The Associated Press

State Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, reacts after passage of a bill he presented in the House chamber at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Arkansas lawmakers have given final approval to a religious-freedom bill that has drawn sharp criticism from opponents who say it opens the door to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has urged lawmakers to send a bill to his desk by the end of the week to clarify the intent of a new religious-objections law that critics fear could permit discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Pence’s move on Tuesday to quell a backlash over the law came as Arkansas lawmakers defied criticism and passed similar legislation that now heads to the governor. A look at the latest developments:

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WHAT THE LAWS SAY

The Indiana law, which takes effect July 1, does not specifically mention gays and lesbians, but opponents say it is designed to protect businesses and individuals who do not want to serve gays and lesbians, such as florists or caterers who might be hired for a same-sex wedding.

The law prohibits state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs unless the government can show that it has a compelling interest and that the action is the least restrictive means of achieving it. The definition of “person” includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Critics say that language is broader than a 1993 federal law signed by then-President Bill Clinton that Pence says it’s based on.

Twenty states now have similar laws in place.

Indiana University law professor Deborah Widiss said such laws across the country have not “been a sort of blank check to discriminate.”

Widiss said the proposals are fueled by rulings legalizing gay marriage and by last year’s Supreme Court interpretation of the federal law in a case involving retailer Hobby Lobby. The court ruled the retailer and other closely held private businesses with religious objections could opt out of providing the free contraceptive coverage required by President Barack Obama’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act.

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CHANGES COMING

Pence said Tuesday he stands by the law but acknowledged that Indiana has a “perception problem.” He said he has been meeting with lawmakers and business leaders “around the clock” to address concerns that the Indiana bill would allow discrimination.

The governor called for legislation addressing those issues by the end of the week, and Republican leaders said they were working on language.

Arkansas lawmakers said they would not modify their state’s measure despite opponents’ calls to do so.

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CRITICISMS POUR IN

Retail giant Wal-Mart issued a statement Tuesday saying Gov. Asa Hutchinson should veto the legislation. Wal-Mart Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon said the bill threatens the state’s spirt of inclusion and the Bentonville-based company’s values.

Hutchinson, a Republican, has previously said he plans to sign the bill into law.

NASCAR said in a statement Tuesday that it was “disappointed” by the legislation, and the NCAA, which has had its headquarters in Indianapolis since 1999, says it is concerned about the law’s effect on future Indiana events.

The governors of New York, Vermont, Washington and Connecticut have announced bans on certain state-funded travel to Indiana because of the law, as did the mayors of Denver, Seattle and Washington, D.C., for city-funded travel.


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