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TheNextPence Photo credits: Gage Skidmore (Abbott), Hal Goodtree (McCrory), Steven Bennett (Hutchinson), Gage Skidmore (Pence)

Indiana Governor Mike Pence is in full-scale damage control mode, after signing a bill that opens the floodgates to discrimination in the Hoosier State.

Pence’s social legislation has already proven to be a job-killer in Indiana. Indianapolis-based company Angie’s List canceled a $40 million headquarters expansion that would have created 1,000 jobs in the state. Tech company – which has more than 2,000 employees in Indiana – canceled future company events in Indiana. And the Indianapolis-based National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) expressed concern about its players and staff for this week’s Final Four, and questioned how the law would affect future events and staff in Indiana.

The message to America’s governors should be clear: Discrimination is bad for business.

But this debate isn’t unique to Indiana. Republican governors in several other states may soon face decisions on similar so-called “religious freedom” bills that are moving through their legislature.

The question is: Which Republican governor will become the next Mike Pence? 

Will these governors side with their state’s business communities? Or will they side with far-right social ideologues?

This is a critical test for incumbent governors who face the voters in November 2016, including Pence and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. And the issue will force Republican gubernatorial candidates in 2016 – in states like Montana and Washington – to answer where they stand on discrimination.

Here are the 4 governors that the DGA will be watching over the next several weeks:

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson 

Governor Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) could sign a similar bill to Indiana’s, as soon as this week. Arkansas House Bill 1228 passed the state Senate on Friday and could clear the House as soon as today. Hutchinson announced plans to sign the bill – ignoring the pleas of Wal-Mart, the state’s largest private employer.

  • “Religious Freedom” Bill Could Face a Final Vote as Soon as Tuesday; Gov. Hutchinson Pledged to Sign the Bill. According to the Associated Press, “Gov. Asa Hutchinson and a lawmaker behind a ‘religious freedom’ bill, which critics say endorses discrimination against gays and lesbians, say they’re not seeking any changes to the measure as it nears a final vote in the Arkansas Legislature.  A similar bill signed into law last week in Indiana has drawn widespread condemnation and ridicule from across the country. Hutchinson said in a statement on Monday that he’ll sign the bill that would prohibit state and local government from infringing upon someone’s religious beliefs without a compelling interest as long as it’s similar to measures in effect in 20 other states. Republican Rep. Bob Ballinger said he didn’t expect any changes to the bill, which could face a final vote as soon as Tuesday.  A Hutchinson spokesman said the governor wasn’t actively seeking any changes.” [Associated Press, 3/30/15]
  • Both Arkansas-Based Wal-Mart and Apple Condemn Bill, Urge Veto. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “Two major US companies, retailer Wal-Mart (which has its home office in Bentonville, Ark.) and Apple have made it clear where they stand. ‘Every day, in our stores, we see firsthand the benefits diversity and inclusion have on our associates, customers and communities we serve. It all starts with the core basic belief of respect for the individual. And that means understanding and respecting differences and being inclusive of all people,’ Wal-Mart said in a statement. ‘We feel this legislation is counter to this core basic belief and sends the wrong message about Arkansas.’ Apple CEO Tim Cook, referring to the measures in the two states, said in a tweet: ‘Apple is open for everyone. We are deeply disappointed in Indiana’s new law and calling on Arkansas Gov. to veto the similar HB1228.’” [Christian Science Monitor, 3/28/15]

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory

After Arkansas, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory could be the next governor to decide on an Indiana-style bill. Last week, the state House and Senate introduced a bill that was ‘nearly identical’ to the Indiana legislation. McCrory – who has a history of allowing bills to pass into law without his signature – stopped short of issuing a veto threat in a radio appearance Monday.

  • Last Week, Three N.C. Senators and Two House Members Filed Nearly Identical Religious Freedom Legislation in Raleigh. According to the Charlotte Observer Editorial Board, “On the very day Indiana Gov. Mike Pence set off a national backlash last week by signing his state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, three N.C. senators filed nearly identical legislation in Raleigh. Two days earlier, the same bill was filed in the House by two Mecklenburg Republicans: Dan Bishop and Jacqueline Schaffer.” [Charlotte Observer Editorial, 3/29/15]
  • WRAL: McCrory “Unclear” on Whether He Would Veto Bill. According to WRAL, “[Gov. Pat] McCrory told WFAE that many of the policies expressed in religious freedom bills ‘make no sense.’ It was unclear from the conversation whether McCrory would veto such a religious freedom bill, but it was clear he did not think the measure was needed.” [WRAL, 3/30/15]
  • Raleigh Business Owners: Bill Could Hurt in Recruiting Clients. According to ABC 11, “In Raleigh, some business owners are already expressing a similar concern about Stam’s bill. ‘I’ve tried to see some kind of upside to this legislation, but I don’t see it,’ said Tony Cope, founder of Raleigh-based Myriad Media. Cope worries that legislation that could be viewed as discriminatory will hurt in recruiting clients and talent. ‘It’s a hurdle,’ Cope said. ‘I have to spend time and effort convincing people, ‘this is the way the legislation is going but it’s not the way we do business in North Carolina.’” [ABC11, 3/27/15]
  • Charlotte Observer Editorial Headline: ‘Indiana shows what not to do.’ According to the Charlotte Observer Editorial Board, “We’re big First Amendment people, and are all for religious freedom. But the reality is that the legislation or laws in North Carolina, Indiana and a couple dozen other states represent state approval of discrimination. The most obvious victims are the gay residents who increasingly are winning equality through the courts – and who are likely to get the ultimate backing from the U.S. Supreme Court this summer. […] Does North Carolina really want to go down this road? Do we want to sanction discrimination by letting anyone deny service to whomever they please? Do we want to jeopardize conventions, job growth and the ability to recruit? Arizona was going to last year, but under pressure from the NFL and others, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill. If it reaches his desk, Gov. Pat McCrory should do the same here.” [Charlotte Observer Editorial, 3/29/15]

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal

Governor Nathan Deal has already announced his support of so-called ‘religious liberty’ legislation. Senate Bill 129 passed the Senate in March — and could still be considered before the Georgia legislature adjourns this week. Its sponsor is ‘exploring all options’ to pass the bill.

  • Georgia Bill Sponsor is “Exploring All Possible Options” for Passage. According to WABE, “A special hearing that was scheduled for Monday and aimed at reaching compromise was abruptly canceled on Sunday. The bill’s author, Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, remains hopeful. ‘I obviously would have liked for us to have moved forward this morning, but I’m going to keep making the case and work hard to get it moved,’ said McKoon. ‘I’m exploring all possible options.’ Proponents of the bill want greater protections for religious expression, but critics see it as a means to discriminate against gays and lesbians.” [WABE, 3/30/15]
  • In January 2015 Gov. Nathan Deal Supported “Religious Liberty” Legislation. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “With a major fight brewing over the future of ‘religious liberty’ bills, supporters of the legislation can count themselves a key ally: Gov. Nathan Deal. The governor offered a reminder today that he voted for similar federal legislation that aimed to prevent government intrusion on faith-based activities when he was in Congress, and said he was surprised the debate here has taken on ‘rather interesting dynamics.’ Some critics of the bill worry it could be a discriminatory end-run on the First Amendment that would allow business owners to cite religious beliefs to deny people service. Corporate forces say it could send the wrong message to prospective recruits. But Deal suggested he was heartened by a draft of the proposal that aims to drive home the message that the legislation would only apply to government agencies and not to business owners. Said Deal: ‘I personally do not think that the adoption of such a law would have the negative impacts that many people portrayed it would have. The language of the proposal would probably ameliorate some of the concerns … I don’t think anyone who proposes that legislation or supports it supports it for the purpose of discrimination.’” [Atlanta Journal Constitution blog, 1/13/15]

 Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Governor Greg Abbott – who has previously opposed local non-discrimination statutes – has yet to throw his support behind a specific option of the many Texas bills and constitutional amendments to “restore religious freedom.” But he has plenty to choose from, including legislation by State Rep. Molly White that would give businesses the right to “refuse to provide goods or services to any person based on a sincerely held religious belief or on conscientious grounds.”

  • Texas House Considering Bill Allowing Businesses to “Refuse to Provide Goods or Services” on Religious Grounds. According to KSAT, “The Texas House of Representatives is considering House Bill 2553, which would allow businesses to refuse to provide goods or services based on a sincerely held religious belief or on conscientious grounds. It also provides that the business owner may not be compelled to provide goods or services for the same reasons. […] The bill has been referred to the Texas House of Representatives’ Business and Industry Committee. It is not clear whether it would have any impact on San Antonio’s nondiscrimination ordinance.” [KSAT, 3/30/15]
  • Texas Legislature Considering Several Religious Freedom Bills, Despite Business Opposition. According to the Houston Chronicle, “Last month, the Texas business association voted to oppose two similar resolutions introduced by Sen. Donna Campbell, a New Braunfels Republican, and Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas Republican. … Rep. Matt Krause, the Fort Worth Republican … picked up Villalba’s stalled effort and filed an identical bill. Campbell and Krause’s resolutions call for a state constitutional amendment that would bar any governmental body from ‘[burdening] in any way a person’s free exercise of religion unless the burden is necessary to further a compelling governmental interest.’ As of Monday, both resolutions do not have a public hearing date scheduled. If lawmakers approve both resolutions, voters can have their say in the November election. Another effort in the House by Rep. Molly White, a freshman Republican from Belton, is the session’s most explicit bill regarding this issue. The broadly worded HB 2553 would expressly grant private business owners the right to “refuse to provide goods or services to any person based on a sincerely held religious belief or on conscientious grounds.’” [Houston Chronicle, 3/30/15] 
  • March 2015 Observer Headline: Texas Association of Business Opposes Religious Freedom Amendments. According to the Observer, “The Texas Association of Business has come out against two religious freedom resolutions that critics say would enshrine a “license to discriminate” against LGBT people in the Texas Constitution. TAB, which is the state’s powerful chamber of commerce, unanimously adopted a resolution last month opposing House Joint Resolution 55 and Senate Joint Resolution 10, by Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) and Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), respectively. Chris Wallace, president of TAB, said more than 100 members of the board voted to add opposition to the resolutions to the group’s legislative agenda at a statewide meeting Feb. 17. ‘We feel that this will certainly make our state look very much unwelcoming when it comes to business recruitment,’ Wallace said of the resolutions. ‘We also have several businesses within the state, our large corporations for instance, that have diversity policies already in place, and what we’re hearing from them is they want their state to look the same way.’” [Observer, 3/5/15]
  • In August 2013 Abbott Opposed a Non-Discrimination Ordinance Because it Disregarded “the Clearly Expressed Will of the Texas Legislature in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” In August 2013 Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott opposed a proposed non-discrimination ordinance in San Antonio. Abbott today released the following statement: “I oppose the proposed ordinance because it would not prevent discrimination, but impose it: stifling speech, repressing religious liberty, and imposing burdens on those who hold a traditional view on human relations. The proposed ordinance runs contrary to the Texas Constitution, which prohibits religious tests, and also defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Religious expression is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and this ordinance is also contrary to the clearly expressed will of the Texas Legislature in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Civil Practices and Remedies Code Ch. 110), which provides that ‘a government agency may not substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion.’” [Greg Abbott for Governor press release, 8/26/13]