The measure, signed in a private ceremony by Pence, bars state and local governments from actions that "substantially burden a person's right to the exercise of religion." The exception: laws or regulations that agencies can demonstrate serve a compelling government interest.
The law also allows residents to sue to win exemptions from government actions they say violate their relgious freedom.
The Associated Press quotes Pence as saying, "There has been a lot of misunderstanding about this bill. This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."
Liberal and civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and national and state LGBT rights groups, were uniformly critical of Pence and the new law. Conservative groups in the state, including Indiana Right to Life and the American Family Association of Indiana, applauded the governor.
Eric Miller, head of a group called Advance America, was quoted in the Indianapolis Star as saying the law is important "to help protect churches, Christian businesses and individuals from those who want to punish them because of their Biblical beliefs!"