TIME States

New Kansas Law Will Allow Concealed Carry Without Gun Permit or Training

“It is a constitutional right, and we’re removing a barrier to that right"

A bill signed Thursday by Gov. Sam Brownback will allow residents in Kansas to carry concealed firearms without a permit or training.

Kansans aged 21 or older will be permitted to carry concealed guns starting July 1 when the law takes effect, even if they’re not trained or don’t have a permit, the Kansas City Star reports. That will make the state one of six to allow “constitutional carry.”

Anyone who would like to carry a concealed gun in any of the three dozen states that accept Kansas permits must go through training, a requirement that Brownback emphasized. But even with regard to Kansans, who won’t be required to go through training, he acknowledged that his youngest son had “got a lot out of” a hunter safety course recently and urged others “to take advantage of that.”

“We’re saying that if you want to do that in this state, then you don’t have to get the permission slip from the government,” Brownback said. “It is a constitutional right, and we’re removing a barrier to that right.”

The Kansas State Rifle Association was supportive of the bill. A statement on its website reads: “the right to keep and bear arms is a natural, unalienable right protected by the Second Amendment and citizens should not have to go through burdensome and expensive hoops to exercise that right.”

[Kansas City Star]


Why Religious Freedom Bills Could Be Great for Gay Rights

Demonstrators gather to protest a controversial religious freedom bill recently signed by Governor Mike Pence, during a rally at Monument Circle in Indianapolis on March 28, 2015.
Nate Chute—Reuters Demonstrators gather to protest a controversial religious freedom bill recently signed by Governor Mike Pence, during a rally at Monument Circle in Indianapolis on March 28, 2015.

"Anyone involved in social change has often had to take something that looked pretty bleak and turn it into an opportunity"

Opponents of the religious freedom laws recently passed in Arkansas and Indiana criticized the measures as a license to discriminate against LGBT people, but the battle over the bills may come to benefit the very people who led the charge against them.

Suddenly, a community that has been unsuccessfully championing LGBT non-discrimination measures for decades has the nation’s attention. A civil rights movement needs an outraged public to enact reform, and this fight —from grassroots protests against the bills to disapproving tweets from Walmart executives—generated plenty of it. Gay rights advocates strategically used the showdown as a megaphone to decry the absence of discrimination protections for LGBT people in many states. While nearly 90% of people believe that it’s already illegal to discriminate against gay and transgender people, there are no such laws in the majority of the United States.

On Thursday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence approved changes to the state’s newly passed religious freedom law that make it clear the measure can’t be used to discriminate, but his opponents are taking this opportunity to push for more—demanding that Indiana become not just the 20th state to pass a religious freedom act but also the 20th to pass comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBT residents.

“Anyone involved in social change has often had to take something that looked pretty bleak and turn it into an opportunity,” says Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN). “And you better believe that everyone who believes in justice is going to keep making a way out of no way. And this is another one of those moments. Let’s let people know what the stakes really are.”

This silver lining may have already sparked change in Florida, where gay rights advocates have long been pushing a non-discrimination bill that would protect LGBT people in the realms of employment, housing and public accommodations. For nearly a decade, the bill has been filed each year without coming up for a vote, says Carlos Guillermo Smith of Equality Florida. His group has built a coalition of more than 300 businesses who support the measure—including prominent companies like Walt Disney World and the Miami Heat—but that hasn’t moved the needle. Now, in the wake of Indiana, Smith says it looks like the bill may finally get taken up by a committee next week.

“It’ll be the first hearing we have had on the issue, ever,” says Smith.

In Pennsylvania, advocates preparing to introduce a non-discrimination measure in the next two weeks have used the fallout in Indiana to highlight the potential economic costs to Republican lawmakers. Companies have halted expansion in the Hoosier State, lucrative conferences have threatened to convene elsewhere and recruiters tasked with luring executives to the area are worried about companies already there choosing to relocate.

“It’s the severity of the backlash,” says Equality Pennsylvania’s Ted Martin, “that really and truly serves as an example that discrimination is just not the way to move a state forward economically. I think the leadership in our capitol will pay attention to that.”

This is already the tack that many LGBT advocates have been taking, concentrating on the dollars-and-cents arguments instead of just acceptance-and-tolerance. In Florida, the non-discrimination bill is pointedly named the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, positioned as a way to attract the broadest range of the best talent. What’s happening in Indiana, Smith says, “is making the argument for us.”

Some worry that support for non-discrimination measures will be hard to drum up, partly because the realm of marriage equality has been a double-edged sword for LGBT Americans. As the Supreme Court appears poised to make same-sex marriage the law of the land, advocates are ready to celebrate securing a right with enormous emotional and practical importance. At the same time, says Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, “The concern has always been that we might make the mistakes of every other civil rights or human rights struggle. Women win the right to vote and mistake that for full equality. Brown v. Board of Education rules that segregation is unlawful, and there’s a mistaken notion that somehow we’ve won the war on racism and bigotry.”

The fear, she says, is that casual supporters of gay rights would get the impression that the work is finished, brush off their hands, put away their pocketbooks and go home. “The notion that we’re done is something that we’re fighting,” Kendell told TIME in 2014. The fight in Indiana has made it clear that the war is not over. It has also demonstrated to the likes of Kendell that they have wells of support that are bigger than they realized, as everyone from the NCAA to Angie’s List balked at the law. “We have seen a cascade of support for basic, fair treatment for LGBT people in the public square that I could never have imagined,” Kendell says. “I want to bottle this lightning.”

While the national conversation has focused on the theoretical same-sex couple seeking a hypothetical cake from a traditionalist baker, Sarah McBride of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, says that the controversy has been an opportunity to point out that the LGBT discrimination is not only real but that the vast majority is more “life-altering” than having to seek out a second pastry shop. “The economic numbers don’t lie,” she says, noting that LGBT Americans experience higher levels of poverty, homelessness and unemployment than the general population. A report she authored in 2014 found that 27% of LGBT people have experienced “inappropriate treatment” or hostility in a place of public accommodation like a shop or restaurant.

McBride says that another difficulty that comes along with wins for marriage equality is that there are more opportunities for discrimination. Heartened by court rulings, people are more willing to come out of the closet and may even be forced to effectively out themselves at work when, for the first time, they’re filling out paperwork to add a same-sex spouse to their health insurance policy. Those are opportunities to encounter backlash that didn’t exist before, she says. A favorite rhetorical example among such advocates is that in several states, a lesbian could now be married on Sunday and fired for being gay on Monday, left with only patchy and confusing legal recourse. “The confusion around the legal landscape needs to be clarified,” McBride says. “That’s why there needs to be a comprehensive federal response.”

Members of Congress have tried and failed to pass non-discrimination legislation that would protect LGBT people in employment nearly every session since 1994. In a “historic” 2013 vote, the Democrat-controlled Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA. Then the Republican-controlled House didn’t take it up. Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, said in late 2014 that rather than fight the same fight again, he plans to go bigger: introducing sweeping legislation that covers not only employment but housing and public accommodations. And the controversy over religious freedom restoration bills—which are still pending in six states beyond Indiana—may help jump start a measure that has stalled so many times. It will need a jolt for a GOP-controlled Congress to consider taking it up.

“Senator Merkley’s hope is that with the news out of Indiana and Arkansas we can finally get the support we need to get LGBT Americans the rights they deserve,” a spokesperson for Merkley tells TIME.

In some ways, fighting for marriage equality is an easier task for gay rights supporters than fighting for LGBT non-discrimination bills. Part of it is Americans’ widespread belief that those protections are already in place and confusion about what legal options LGBT people have if they’re fired from a job for being gay or transgender, while it has always been obvious and indisputable where same-sex marriage was not legal and what that meant. A lack of marriage rights is a straightforward issue, while discrimination isn’t always easy for outsiders to see, says Jenny Pizer of Lambda Legal. “Non-discrimination is proactive and not reactive,” Pizer says. “That is a different kind of social change process.”

But the religious freedom bills, which have been considered in more than a dozen states so far in 2015, could change that. McBride says such incendiary proposals may prove the “tangible” means of activating support for their cause, just like constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage provided them a target at which to aim when fighting for marriage equality.

People like Smith will be watching closely to see whether backlash against the new religious freedom law is indeed enough to boomerang the state legislature beyond fixes to passing stand-alone non-discrimination legislation. That would be a telling lesson in a state run by a politician who once declared that he opposes “any effort to recognize homosexual’s [sic] as a discreet [sic] and insular minority’ entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws similar to those extended to women and ethnic minorities.”

“Their version of our bill is still in the works,” Smith says. “If we can’t even get that in Indiana, then I don’t know if we’ll be able to get it in Florida.” But if Smith’s team does get their hearing next week, you can count on them pointing a lot of fingers in a northwesterly direction.

TIME politics

This Map Shows Every State With Religious-Freedom Laws

See when each law was passed

The national outcry over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has turned attention towards the 19 states with their own versions of the law and the others that are considering similar measures. The timeline below shows when each state passed legislation, starting with Connecticut in 1993. Click on a state for links to the laws or pending bills.

The fight over RFRAs dates to 1990, when the Supreme Court ruled against an Oregonian named Al Smith, who was a quarter American Indian. He had argued that his use of peyote in a Native American Church ritual—an act that cost him his job—should be protected by the First Amendment. He lost, and the ruling made it easier for the government to place restrictions on the freedom of religion.

That precedent didn’t sit well with state or federal governments. In the fall of 1993, Bill Clinton signed the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which restored the standard the Court had overruled. “Those whose religion forbids autopsies have been subjected to mandatory autopsies,” Vice President Al Gore said at the signing ceremony outside the White House. This legislation, he said, was something “all Americans” could be behind. And many of them did, including Republicans, Democrats, evangelicals and progressive civil rights advocates.

MORE: The Battle of Indiana

The new law demanded that the government have a “compelling interest” before infringing on religious freedom and that the government must use the “least restrictive” means of doing so. If, for example, a state law required that all vehicles have electric lights, the government might have a compelling interest in making sure Amish buggies were as visible as cars on the highway. But the least restrictive means of compelling them to follow the law could be to make sure they used reflective silver tape, rather than force them to embrace technology.

In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal law applied only to the federal government. So more states quickly passed their own RFRAs to restore similar provisions at state levels.

But the political context has changed drastically since then, and many social conservatives are now championing religious freedom bills as a way to protect them from having to provide service to LGBT people. Critics worry that states will use such laws to combat existing non-discrimination measures in court, providing legal cover for stores that refuse to serve gay customers or businesses to fire LGBT employees.

Read next: Arkansas Governor Asks for Changes to Controversial Religious Freedom Bill

TIME States

How Gay Rights Won in Indiana

Demonstrators gather to protest a controversial religious freedom bill recently signed by Governor Mike Pence, during a rally at Monument Circle in Indianapolis on March 28, 2015.
Nate Chute—Reuters Demonstrators gather to protest a controversial religious freedom bill recently signed by Governor Mike Pence, during a rally at Monument Circle in Indianapolis on March 28, 2015.

Liberal activists and big business joined forces and humbled a governor

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence approved changes by lawmakers to a controversial state law on religious freedom Thursday, essentially conceding defeat to a concerted alliance of liberal interest groups and large corporations over gay rights.

The new version of the law clarifies that it will not allow businesses to discriminate against gay Hoosiers, a fix that Republican backers and Pence had once argued was not necessary. Both chambers of Indiana’s legislature passed the changes to the law on Thursday, sending it to Pence for final approval. Some lawmakers said the changes still weren’t necessary from a legal standpoint, but were needed in order to stem a national uproar over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“The change in the RFRA law will hopefully put an end to the greatest misperception of all: that Indiana’s people discriminate, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Senate President Pro Tempore David Long.

But gay rights groups point out that the changes only stop discrimination that might have happened as a result of the religious freedom law. No Indiana state law explicitly bars businesses from discriminating against gay customers.

After signing the clarification bill, Pence released a statement and posted a series of tweets that announced he had done so and hoped the state could move forward.

“There will be some who think this legislation goes too far and some who think it does not go far enough,” he said, “but as governor I must always put the interest of our state first and ask myself every day, ‘What is best for Indiana?’ I believe resolving this controversy and making clear that every person feels welcome and respected in our state is best for Indiana.”

Still, the quick turnaround on the law in a Republican-led red state showed a sea change on how gay rights fights play out. The fix was the outcome of 48 hours of intense negotiations as lawmakers tried to quell concerns from companies such as Apple, American Airlines and Salesforce, as well as the NCAA college sports league and a bevy of celebrities.

But while the national fight over the bill lasted a few short days, left-leaning groups in Indiana had been laying the groundwork for months. The Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal and others began working with friendly Indiana lawmakers and businesses late last year, sowing the seeds of grassroots opposition as rumors of a religious freedom bill began circulating.

Without the close alliance between big Indiana businesses and liberal activists, the national outcry this week over Indiana’s new law could have been just a muffled whimper.

“This was a moment years in the making,” says Fred Sainz, vice president for the Human Rights Campaign. “The reason we are able to rely on this level of corporate support now is we’ve cultivated this garden for a long time.”

Opposition Takes Root

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was conceived last year by conservative Indiana lawmakers who sought a bulwark in the culture war over gay rights. A proposed state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman petered out last year, and in October a federal court legalized same-sex marriage.

By Thanksgiving, whispers about a religious freedom bill began surfacing in Indianapolis. Lambda Legal, the national gay rights group, got a tip from a friendly legislator in the Indiana House that a bill was in the works and alerted friendly groups and businesses. Word got out that a bill was going to be completed in January, and by the end of the month, it was filed.

MORE: Uproar Over Religious Freedom Law Trips Up Indiana’s Governor

Civil rights groups primed Indiana businesses for a fight. Cummins, a major diesel and gas engine manufacturer in the state, was an early opponent of the bill. After consulting with activist groups before Christmas, the $19-billion company deployed two in-house lobbyists to try to sway Indiana state legislators against the bill. The company also used an outside lobbying firm, Krieg DeVault, to help lobby the general assembly. Activists notified Indiana companies such as Salesforce, Eli Lilly and Alcoa of the bill, who also put pressure on legislators. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which represents the state’s businesses interests in the state capitol, opposed the bill, as did its Indianapolis equivalent.

“The bill has been brewing since gay marriage become legal in October,” says Jim Bennett, Midwest director for Lambda Legal. “We’ve all been able to stay close together throughout this fight going back to the beginning.”

In early March, the Indiana Senate passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act along party lines. The ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal and the American Unity Fund banded together into a group called Freedom Indiana to better coordinate opposition to the law.

Business groups scored a legislative win late in the process when they convinced the Indiana House to add an amendment that protected corporations from religiously fueled employee lawsuits. But they were unable to prevent the passage of the final bill through the general assembly.

Harsh Spotlight

The carefully tended tinder of opposition erupted into a national firestorm when Pence signed the bill into law last Thursday.

Apple’s openly gay CEO Tim Cook, whom civil rights groups had been privately courting as a key civil rights ally, tweeted his opposition. The NCAA denounced the measure as well, and additional businesses signed on to a critical letter addressed to Pence, including Internet company Angie’s List and healthcare company Roche Diagnostics. On Monday, the Indianapolis Star featured a rare front-page editorial. “FIX THIS NOW,” the headline screamed in huge letters. “Indiana is in a state of crisis,” the editors warned the governor. “It is worse than you seem to understand.”

Beset on all sides, Pence sounded the retreat on Tuesday, urging lawmakers to fix the law. “After much reflection and consultation with the leadership of the General Assembly, I’ve come to the conclusion it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear this law does not give businesses the right to deny services to anyone,” Pence said in a news conference.

MORE: 5 things to Know About Mike Pence

Even as Indiana scrambled to amend the law, the Human Rights Campaign diligently worked its corporate contacts. The group released a statement on Tuesday signed by American Airlines, Microsoft, Wells Fargo and six other major businesses that denounced similar efforts around the country. Meanwhile, left-leaning activists clamored for language that would protect LGBT Hoosiers, and lobbyists for the manufacturing, healthcare and tourism industries complained the law was bad for business. Many rank-and-file Republicans staunchly stood by the old bill as party leaders rallied their caucuses.

By Tuesday evening, the rhetoric had reached a feverish pitch. “The business and civic leaders were telling legislators yesterday that the financial impact to the city of Indy would be similar to Katrina,” said one Indiana business leader on Tuesday. “Today, they are saying it’s more like Pompeii.”

Conservatives insisted the outburst against the law was overblown and blamed the erosion of the law on outlier groups. Evangelical leader Rev. Franklin Graham wrote in a Facebook post that liberal groups “don’t want Christians’ freedoms to be protected.” Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich called the response a “lynch mob.”

Wednesday saw intensive meetings with Pence, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Long, the Senate leader, as well as sport and business leaders and lobbyists. The Star reported that Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Mark Miles, Indy Chamber Vice President Mark Fisher and a representative from tech company Salesforce were also involved in meetings.

A new version of the bill had coalesced by Thursday. “The message is clear today,” said Bosma. “It’s coming from Democrats, Republicans, corporate leaders, and community leaders, that Indiana is open for business to people of all stripes, and we discriminate against no one.”

The concerted opposition to the Indiana bill is likely to serve as a warning to other states. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchison of Arkansas declined to sign a similar bill Wednesday after opposition from Walmart and others, while Republican Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina said he would oppose any similar legislation.

Pence has professed that the hostility to the law shocked him. “Was I expecting this kind of backlash? Heavens, no,” he said.

Whatever else happens after this week, other governors won’t be able to make the same claim.

Read next: Real Progressives Should Support Indiana’s Law

TIME Mike Pence

Indiana’s Mike Pence Takes Blows, Burnishes Credentials In Religious Freedom Fight

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during a press conference at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis on March 31, 2015.
Aaron P. Bernstein—Getty Images Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during a press conference at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis on March 31, 2015.

Becoming a liberal pariah can be good politics for a conservative

There are few immutable rules in politics. But here’s one: anytime you call a televised press conference to explain that you “abhor discrimination,” something’s gone awry.

Such was the plight of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who was dragged into the searing glare of the national spotlight Tuesday to defend a new state law that critics say will invite discrimination. That 37-minute gauntlet followed another televised grilling in which Pence dodged hypothetical questions about whether a wedding florist could deny service to gay couples. The controversy over Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) enveloped the Hoosier State this week, sparking a massive outcry from businesses, activists and ordinary citizens.

But in gauging the damage inflicted on Pence, it’s worth recalling another of politics’ Newtonian laws: in partisan warfare, taking enemy fire for a cherished cause always mobilizes your own troops. For a conservative like Pence, becoming a liberal pariah is pretty good politics.

In other words, for a governor with half an eye on national office, there are worse moves than planting yourself at the center of a national controversy. Just ask Scott Walker, who vaulted from obscurity to the top of the early presidential pack primarily by picking a bruising fight with Wisconsin’s unions. Pence may have underestimated the blowback he’d get from signing the so-called religious-freedom statute. But the skirmish could help more than hurt in the long run.

In the near term, the battle of Indiana has raised the national profile of a first-term governor whom many Republicans have long dubbed a dark horse contender in the 2016 race. Pence has yet to spring from the starting gate: he hasn’t hired staff, built a fundraising apparatus or made the early trips to primary states that are reliable signs of presidential ambitions. But on paper, he is the kind of candidate capable of catching fire.

“Mike has a unique ability to rally people from all different sectors of the conservative movement,” says his former chief of staff Marc Short, who is now president of Freedom Partners, the political fund for the billionaire Koch brothers. “Mike models servant-leadership better than any politician or public official I know.”

Pence, 55, has described himself as a “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” This week’s legislative fight showcased the Christian part. But over six terms in the House of Representatives, Pence also built up glittering conservative credentials as he battled the Bush Administration on policies ranging from the bank bailout to No Child Left Behind to Medicare Part D. He left a coveted spot as chair of the GOP Republican Conference for the statehouse in Indianapolis, a perfect perch from which to mount a national campaign.

Pence is more likely than not to pass up a campaign. For one thing, Walker and perhaps Ohio Gov. John Kasich have already occupied the Midwestern governor’s lane on the road to the nomination. But after months off the national radar tending to the legislative session in Indiana, the RFRA fight “puts Pence right back in the center of the storm,” says a longtime party strategist. If he survives the tempest, he could steer himself into contention as a champion of an issue that is particularly dear to voters in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. “Pence right now has the opportunity to win the Republican nomination by standing firm,” argues Mike Farris, a conservative lawyer who helped draft the federal RFRA in 1993.

At the same time, a dramatic confrontation on a divisive social issue was hardly the best way to introduce himself to the mainstream voters Pence would need to mount a credible campaign. “Does it help him? I doubt it,” says one top Republican strategist who believes Pence’s team bungled the issue. “If the primary voters think you aren’t skilled enough to beat Hillary, you’re going to be in a bad spot whether you have a good [voting] scorecard or not.”

With reporting by Sam Frizell and Zeke J. Miller

TIME States

Arkansas Governor Asks for Changes to Controversial Religious Freedom Bill

His own son signed a petition against it

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson called Wednesday for the state legislature to make changes to a religious freedom bill that prompted an angry outcry from prominent businesses and activists who say it could lead to discrimination against gays.

“I’ve asked the leaders of the General Assembly to recall the bill so that it can be amended,” Hutchinson, a Republican, announced in a news conference Wednesday morning.

Hutchinson had promised last week to sign the bill into law when it reached his desk, and on Tuesday the Arkansas state House affixed its final approval to the measure. But as a backlash over a similar bill built against Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Hutchinson reconsidered his decision.

MORE: Uproar Over Religious Freedom Law Trips Up Indiana Governor

Noting that his own son signed a petition urging a veto, Hutchinson urged the Arkansas state legislature to tweak the language of the statute to make it mirror the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law with bipartisan support by then-President Clinton.

“This is a bill that in ordinary times would not be controversial. But these are not ordinary times,” Hutchinson said.

Pressure had mounted on Hutchinson to reject the legislation, as powerful corporations publicly exhorted the Republican governor to reverse his decision. On Tuesday evening, the Arkansas-based retail giant Walmart posted a statement on Twitter arguing the bill undermined the state’s “spirit of inclusion” and asking Hutchinson to veto it.

“My responsibility is to speak out on my own convictions,” Hutchinson said, “and to do what I can, as governor, to make sure this bill reflects the values of the people of Arkansas, protects those of religious conscience. But also, minimizes the chance of discrimination in the workplace.”

TIME Crime

Idaho Man Who Called 911 To Complain About Bar Tab Could Get Jail Time

The man called 12 times to complain about a $30 bar tab

An Idaho man who called 911 early Monday to complain that a bar overcharged him is now facing up to a year in jail time and a $1,000 fine.

According to a report by KXLY, the drama began when an intoxicated Phillip Poissonnier was kicked out of Club Tequila in Post Falls, Idaho shortly after 1 a.m. Officers gave him a courtesy ride home, but later he called 911 repeatedly because he wanted the police to address the bar allegedly overcharging on his $30 bar tab.

“We were responding to a prowler call and while we’re on the prowler call, he’s calling 911 making sure he’s not overcharged,” Post Falls Police Captain Pat Knight said.

On one of 12 calls, Poissonnier told a 911 operator that she was “just like his ex wife.”



First Openly Gay Congressman Says ‘Prejudice Is Alive and Well’ in Indiana

House Financial Services Cmte Holds Hearing On Impact Of Dodd-Frank Act
Win McNamee—Getty Images Former House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) testifies before the House Financial Services Committee July 23, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Barney Frank speaks out against the state's new law and says a federal version he supported was "overly drawn"

The first openly gay member of Congress said Indiana’s controversial new religious freedom law sends a clear message that the state discriminates, and that he now regrets his role in passing a federal law that has been used to justify similar state laws sweeping the country.

“It’s a statement by the state: ‘Prejudice is alive and well in our state,'” former Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank said in an interview with TIME.

Frank spoke to TIME on Tuesday after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, bowing to days of criticism from business leaders, gay rights groups and others, urged state lawmakers to clarify that the measure doesn’t allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers or anyone else. He said Pence’s comments that the law was never meant to discriminate were undermined by statements from supporters of the law who had raised the prospect of it allowing businesses to refuse services for same-sex weddings.

MORE: Uproar Over Religious Freedom Law Trips Up Indiana Governor

“He said the law that was passed—which was specifically to allow people to discriminate against gay people—does not allow you to discriminate against gay people,” Frank said. “If that were in fact the case, there wouldn’t have been any law.”

And he expressed dismay that a federal law signed in the 1990s by then-President Bill Clinton with his support, which initially came about to protect the religious practice of Native Americans using the illegal drug peyote for ceremonial purposes, was being used for political cover by Pence and Republicans pushing similar measures elsewhere. That bill was intended as a “shield for people for their own religious practices,” he said, not as a “sword” used to discriminate. “I now believe that the federal version… was overly drawn, and that people were not thinking about the extent to which it would be an exception to any discrimination laws. I’d like to go back and redo some of the federal law. A number of us did not pay sufficient attention to it.”

Pence signed the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law last Thursday, igniting a national firestorm and shining a spotlight on his state’s capital just days before it hosts the NCAA Final Four tournament. Critics of the law argue it’s an open door for discrimination, while some proponents including Pence say it is simply meant to protect religious liberty from government overreach and doesn’t allow any form of discrimination. Hours after Pence bemoaned “mischaracterizations” of the law and acknowledged being “taken aback” by the uproar, Arkansas lawmakers gave final approval to a similar measure.

“I abhor discrimination,” Pence told reporters Tuesday. “This law does not give anyone a license to deny services to gay and lesbian couples.”

Frank, who served in Congress from 1981 to 2013, said he, too, was surprised by the intensity of the backlash: “I have said for years that I’ve continually been surprised by how fast we are progressing in defeating anti-LGBT prejudice.”

“He’s not a Tea Party guy—I served with him in the House—he was one of the more conservative members,” Frank said of Pence, who hasn’t ruled out a campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.“But I think in this case he is suffering from a severe case of cultural lag. You know, a few years ago this would have been acceptable.”

Read next: Miley Cyrus Says Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law Supporters ‘Are Dinosaurs, and They Are Dying Off’

TIME Basketball

UConn Coaches Won’t Attend Final Four Over Indiana Religious Freedom Law

Head coach Kevin Ollie of the Connecticut Huskies looks on against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the game at Fifth Third Arena on Jan. 29, 2015 in Cincinnati.
Joe Robbins—Getty Images Head coach Kevin Ollie of the Connecticut Huskies looks on against the Cincinnati Bearcats during the game at Fifth Third Arena on Jan. 29, 2015 in Cincinnati.

Critics say Indiana's controversial law will allow discrimination against the LGBT community

University of Connecticut coaches will not attend the upcoming NCAA Final Four in Indiana in response to the state’s new controversial religious freedom legislation, the school said Tuesday.

“Kevin Ollie and other members of the UConn men’s basketball staff will not travel to Indianapolis for the NCAA Final Four and events surrounding it,” UConn President Susan Herbst said in a statement. “UConn is a community that values all of our members and treats each person with the same degree of respect, regardless of their background and beliefs, and we will not tolerate any other behavior.”

Herbst said the coaches’ decision is in support of Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s signing of an executive order Monday that banned state-funded travel to Indiana after Gov. Mike Pence signed the controversial measure into law, prompting a fierce backlash from critics who say it will allow state-sponsored anti-gay discrimination.

Lawmakers in Arkansas approved a similar measure to Indiana’s on Tuesday, and its Governor, Asa Hutchinson, has said he intends to sign it.

Read next: Miley Cyrus Miley Cyrus: Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law Supporters ‘Are Dinosaurs, and They Are Dying Off’

TIME Arkansas

Walmart Asks Arkansas Governor to Veto Religious-Freedom Bill

Indiana's governor controversially signed a similar bill last week

Shortly after lawmakers in Arkansas approved a religious freedom bill Tuesday that is similar to Indiana’s controversial legislation, Walmart called on Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto the measure.

“Today’s passage of HB1228 threatens to undermine the spirit of inclusion present throughout the state of Arkansas and does not reflect the values we proudly uphold,” Doug McMillon, CEO of the Arkansas-based retailer, said in a statement. “For these reasons, we are asking Governor Hutchinson to veto this legislation.”

HB1228, which the Republican Governor said Monday he intends to sign, is similar to a law signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence last week that has received fierce backlash by critics who say it will allow state-sponsored discrimination against the LGBT community.

Walmart, the No. 1 Fortune 500 company, joins a list of high-profile figures and institutions, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, who have discouraged Hutchinson from signing the bill.

Read next: The Debate Over What Indiana’s Religious Freedom Act Is Really About

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