Tags: Mike Pence | Indiana | NCAA | Final Four | Religious Freedom

NY Times: Indiana Gov. Pence Dribbles Into Trouble With NCAA

Image: NY Times: Indiana Gov. Pence Dribbles Into Trouble With NCAA
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Monday, 30 Mar 2015 09:32 AM

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence dropped the ball during March Madness last week by signing his state's controversial new legislation, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would allow discrimination against gays, The New York Times reported.

After coming under ferocious fire from all over the country in the midst of the college basketball marathon, the Times says the GOP governor is attempting a quick about-face, and now says he would support legislation to "clarify" that the act would not discriminate against homosexuals.

The law bars the state from "substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion," meaning that it protects the rights of people and business owners from compromising their religious beliefs. Opponents say it will lead to discrimination.

The law suggests that a business owner, for example, who objects to birth control on religious grounds does not have to sell contraceptives, while a shop owner who objects to homosexuality for faith reasons would not be forced to provide services to a gay person or a same-sex couple, according to the Times.

Sports agent Arn Tellem emailed the Times last week demanding that that the Indiana Pacers basketball team, the NCAA and professional sports leagues "not only condemn this blatantly unconstitutional legislation, but also to take forceful action against it by re-evaluating their short- and long-term plans in the state."

Tellem's clients include Jason Collins, the former NBA player who became the first professional athlete in the four major American team sports to publicly come out as gay while still playing, the newspaper reported.

Pence told The Indianapolis Star that he was stunned by the backlash against the bill, saying: "I just can't account for the hostility that's been directed at our state. I've been taken aback by the mischaracterizations from outside the state of Indiana about what is in this bill."

His comments came as thousands of basketball fans prepared to journey this week to Indianapolis for the annual spring rite known as the men's basketball Final Four, according to the paper.

The NCAA, based in Indianapolis, has quickly taken issue with the legislation, with its president, Mark Emmert, saying that the organization was "deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events."

He said: "We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill."

Emmert also implied that the Final Four could be moved to another state if the law remains in place, saying, "Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our work force."

The Times' William Rhoden warned in his opinion column that the religious restoration law could have a massive detrimental impact on Indiana.

"It's too late for the NCAA to pull this year's Final Four out of Indianapolis, but the organization can make sure none of its championships are held in the state until the law is scrapped, or at least modified to ensure that no business is given the legal right to discriminate," Holden wrote.

"In signing, and then promoting, a bill that opens the door for discrimination, Pence has encouraged a divisiveness that is antithetical to the achievements represented by the four teams who have reached Indianapolis."

He went on to say: "The best teams put aside egos, vanities and prejudices to achieve a shared goal. They put aside differences, and in some cases that could mean their sexuality, to become a melting pot of everyone's higher self.

"That's not sports, that's life. Governor Pence promised to clarify the intent of the law this week. He'd best hurry. The posse is headed to Indianapolis."

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence dropped the ball during March Madness last week by signing his state's controversial new legislation, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would allow discrimination against gays, The New York Times reported.
Mike Pence, Indiana, NCAA, Final Four, Religious Freedom
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2015-32-30
Monday, 30 Mar 2015 09:32 AM
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