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House Committee Passes 'Religious Freedom' Bill

Brandon Smith
Indiana Public Broadcasting

Opponents of the proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act say it’s not about religious freedom, but about legalizing discrimination.

Proponents of RFRA say they’re worried about the government encroaching on their practice of religion.

But opponents say RFRA goes much further than simply protecting religious practices; they say it will allow private citizens to discriminate because of their religious beliefs. 

Amy Sandler and her wife Niki Quasney were part of a lawsuit last year that successfully struck down the state’s gay marriage ban.  Quasney recently passed away from ovarian cancer. 

Sandler says in her wife’s final days, she didn’t have time to research the religious beliefs of care providers.

“Niki was running out of time and she needed care as quickly as possible," Sandler says.  "What if, in our most vulnerable time of need, they had been allowed and protected to turn us away?”

Supporters of the bill say the RFRA concept exists in 30 other states and has not been used as a license to discriminate.  The House committee approved the bill 9-4, along party lines. 

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.