James Gherardi, Protesters clash over controversial religious freedom bill, Fox 59

James Gherardi, Protesters clash over controversial religious freedom bill, Fox 59

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 19, 2015) – Protesters rallied at the statehouse Thursday in opposition of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. RFRA as it’s being called will likely get a vote by the full house in the coming weeks.

Opponents were out in force at the statehouse Thursday, looking to change lawmakers’ minds. Many were fired up, with feelings of last year’s fight for marriage equality on their minds.

“I am a lesbian and I am a Christian and only one of those things has brought me discrimination in my life and it isn’t not being a Christian, it’s being a lesbian,” said Indianapolis Pastor, Melody Merida.

Merida won the right to marry her partner in Indiana last year. She was at the statehouse Thursday, one year later, with fear that her and her wife will face discrimination if RFRA passes.

“We’re afraid of being denied services simply because of who we are as a family. We’re afraid of being humiliated and judged in places that we go to spend time and our money,” she said.

“If they read the bill, there’s not one word about discrimination in the bill anywhere, not one word,” said David Seeley.

Seeley supports the passage of RFRA.

“We want the right to have our free conscience where we don’t have to go to jail because we have a belief system,” he said.

The debate among protestors, took place right outside the house chamber, where another debate was heating up.

“You know why people are out in the hall and you know what the controversy is,” said State Rep. Ed Delaney (D – Indianapolis).

“I think the amendment, while I appreciate what Rep. Delaney is trying to do is a little bit overly broad,” said Jud McMillin (R – Brookville).

Multiple amendments offered by House democrats were defeated Thursday including an amendment to limit any potential discrimination, as well as an amendment requiring businesses to advertise who they will sell their services or not sell their services to.

Republican lawmakers insist the bill will simply bring Indiana to the federal religious freedom standards set in place decades ago, “For anyone to suggest that this opens the door for discrimination I think is simply wrong based on the legal record that’s been out there with this law in place for over 22 years,” said State Senator and Senate President Pro Tem, David Long (R – Fort Wayne).

And with the bill likely to pass out of the house in the coming weeks, Governor Mike Pence has already given it the OK, “I think it’s a useful and appropriate measure and I’ll sign it if it gets to my desk,” he said during a press conference Wednesday.