INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence said Thursday he was optimistic about Indiana's future despite a backlash over a new religious objections law that sparked a boycott of the state and criticism that the law could be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
"We're focused on the future and the future is very bright for Indiana," Pence said in his first public comments since he approved changes to the law last week to calm the uproar.
Pence, a Republican who once was seen as a potential presidential candidate, asked lawmakers to clarify the language last week as a few businesses canceled conventions and some state governments banned travel to the state. Pence went on an Easter weekend trip to Europe with family members after the changes were approved.
Pence said he regrets the confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the law and he was pleased that Republican leaders worked quickly to draft changes.
"Despite my best efforts to correct misperceptions about the bill it was clear to me that it would be important for the legislature to act and clarify the bill," he said. "There was never any intent to license discrimination."
Tourism officials said Indiana's reputation was damaged by the criticism.
Chris Gahl, vice president of the Indianapolis tourism office, said last week that two groups have canceled major conventions that were estimated to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city. The organization had received hundreds of emails from travelers who plan to avoid the state or cancel upcoming trips.
The revised legislation prohibits providers from using the law as a legal defense for refusing to provide services, goods, facilities or accommodations. It also bars discrimination based on factors that include race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or United States military service.
Since Pence approved the clarification, several companies and states have softened their stances against doing business with and traveling to Indiana.
"People around America know Indiana and they know Hoosiers," Pence said. "I regret this misunderstanding. But we're determined to tell Indiana's story and very confident that the strong and good and compassionate reputation will go forward."