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Legislators To Consider RFRA Repeal

Gretchen Frazee
Indiana Public Broadcasting

As legislators ponder adding civil rights protections for gays and lesbians, they'll also revisit the religious-freedom law which sparked the whole debate.

Senators will consider a bill repealing RFRA and replacing it with a new version.

Indianapolis Republican Mike Young says it broadens the focus from freedom of religion to all First Amendment rights and the right to bear arms, classifying those freedoms as "fundamental rights."

Young argues the bill should address objections about how RFRA was drafted.

The bill uses the same general framework as RFRA, requiring government to show a "compelling interest" for any action that burdens fundamental rights, and to take the least restrictive approach in so doing.

“The bill simply says of our core constitution -- second amendment freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, those are our core values,” he says. “Then when you decide these cases, then you use strict scrutiny.”

The bill instructs courts to assess court challenges based on whether those standards are met.

But Young says it avoids characterizing those freedoms as a courtroom defense.

And Young says the bill attempts to clean up the definition of who can invoke the law's protection, although it still covers not only individuals but "any legal entity."

Young says the bill is separate from the debate over banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear Young's bill January 20.

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