Mike Pence dodged as many direct questions as he could, but there are two takeaways from the Indiana governor's interview today on ABC's This Week.
First, nothing is going to change.
"We're not going to change the law," said Pence bluntly, "but if the general assembly in Indiana sends me a bill that adds a section that reiterates and amplifies and clarifies what the law really is and what it has been for the last 20 years, then I'm open to that. But we're not going to change the law."
The second takeaway could be that Pence refuses to give a simple yes or no on whether the law, as written, protects business owners who want to discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBT people broadly. But it's more important to remember the answer Pence did give.
When ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked the Republican governor if he would just add sexual orientation to the state's anti-discrimination laws, Pence didn't dodge.
"I will not push for that," said Pence. "That's not on my agenda, and that's not been an objective of the people of the state of Indiana."
Everything else Pence did in the interview was an effort to cast himself and the people of Indiana as the real victims of discrimination.
"Is tolerance a two-way street or not?" he shot back at Stephanopoulos after being asked repeatedly whether discrimination against gays and lesbians is protected by the law. "I mean, you know, there's a lot of talk about tolerance in this country today having to do with people on the left. But here Indiana steps forward to protect the constitutional rights and privileges of freedom of religion for people of faith and families of faith in our state. And this avalanche of intolerance that's been poured on our state is just outrageous."
Pence has faced backlash from the business community, including Angie's List announcing it has canceled plans to expand its headquarters in the state, plus condemnation from the leaders of Yelp and Apple. The head of Salesforce said it will end all travel for its employees to Indiana. The mayors of Seattle and San Francisco have said they'll do the same for city employees. And the hashtag #BoycottIndiana has been gaining traction on Twitter.
Pence insists all of those people are just misinformed and don't understand the law, which he says only gives ammunition to individuals to defend themselves in court as part of disputes with the government.
"This is not about discrimination," he insisted repeatedly. "This about empowering people to confront government overreach."
The Human Rights Campaign is eyeing similar laws on deck in 23 states. And it quickly issued a statement calling out Pence for saying he wouldn't amend the state's non-discrimination language.
"Governor Pence's calls for a 'clarification' of this destructive bill are phony unless the legislation guarantees explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBT Hoosiers and includes a clear civil rights carve-out within the RFRA," said Chad Griffin, HRC president. "If Governor Pence is right and he really doesn't want to discriminate, he needs to prove it by protecting the LGBT residents and visitors truly at risk in Indiana. Anything less is a shameful face-saving measure."
Watch the interview below:
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