Is Hillary Clinton Against the Religious Freedom Law that President Clinton Signed?

Hillary, Chelsea and Bill Clinton in 2011 (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
Hillary, Chelsea and Bill Clinton in 2011 (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Soon-to-be-official Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton is denouncing legislative efforts in Indiana and Arkansas that supporters say protect religious expression and opponents say discriminate against gay people. That puts her in the bosom of her party’s current views on gay rights and in direct opposition to nearly every Republican candiate likely to run against her.

Republicans claim the Democratic stance Clinton is adopting is hypocritical, because more than a dozen states had already passed similar laws and all are similar to a religious freedom protection law that Clinton’s husband Bill Clinton signed as president.

Clinton last week called it “sad” that Indiana would approve the law, which like the 1993 version is called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

On Wednesday, Clinton had this to say about a similar law approved by the Arkansas legislature:

The original versions of both the Indiana and Arkansas laws did not specifically refer to gay people, but the measures were widely interpreted — including by businesses often friendly to Republicans — as a legal shield for businesses opposed to same-sex marriage or that otherwise that refuse to serve gays and lesbians.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), who signed the state religious freedom law now under broad attack, has pointed to the 1993 federal law as the basis for his state’s law. Pence has noted that Illinois approved a similar law that won the signature of Barack Obama when he was a state senator.

Democrats counter that the laws are similar only in name to the one Bill Clinton signed.

The original law was intended to protect an individual’s religious expression, such as Indian peyote ceremonies or the wearing of a Muslim headscarf, but the Indiana and Arkansas law are meant to shield employers or service providers opposed to gay rights, Democrats including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said this week.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest also said Pence’s comparison was false, mostly because of the spirit and intent of the laws 22 years apart.

But for Hillary Clinton, the fact that the text of the laws is so similar could be uncomfortable as she begins a presidential race that will cast her as a policymaker in her own right, proud of her husband’s accomplishments but independent of his legacy.

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SOURCE: Anne Gearan 
The Washington Post