Mike Pence’s advice for Georgia’s ‘religious liberty’ supporters

Republican Vice Presidential nominee and Indiana Governor Mike Pence makes a campaign stop to shore up support for Donald Trump in Marietta.   Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

Republican Vice Presidential nominee and Indiana Governor Mike Pence makes a campaign stop to shore up support for Donald Trump in Marietta. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence has a word or two of counsel for Georgia lawmakers getting ready for another round of contentious debate over “religious liberty” legislation.

The Indiana governor was forced to backtrack on his state’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015 after critics feared it would be discriminatory against same-sex couples, even as evangelicals cast it as essential to preserving their religious rights.

A similar debate has raged in Georgia for three years and seems certain to reemerge next year after Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of this year’s version. In an exclusive interview, Pence said it should be left up to the states – and the courts – to hash out the extent of the legislation.

Said Pence:

“The lessons that we learned in the state of Indiana is that the American people abhor discrimination – we don’t support discrimination against anyone – but at the end of the day it’s important that whenever our rights come into conflict, that the courts are the proper place to resolve those rights. And Donald Trump and I really believe that these are issues that are best resolved in Georgia, in Indiana and at the state level.”

His stance is at odds with the push by some Senate Republicans for federal “religious liberty” legislation to avoid a patchwork of state laws. Among the supporters of this approach is U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who has said it ought to be a national – and “seamless” – policy.

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Pence also sought to reassure conservative supporters concerned about Trump’s suggestion last week that he may not follow through with his plan to remove the 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

He said the “principles he articulated from the outset of this campaign are exactly the same as the principles he’s standing on today,” and that Trump will “put a little more detail” behind them in a policy address Wednesday in Arizona.

“But make no mistake about it – ending illegal immigration, securing our borders, including building a wall, implementing an e-verify system, enforcing the laws of this country, upholding the Constitution – that’s all the foundation of what Donald Trump has been talking about up to this point,” said Pence. “And he’ll continue talking about it from now to Nov. 8.”


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