CHICAGO -- Indiana lawmakers scrambled Monday to stem opposition to and potential financial fallout from -- a controversial bill Gov. Mike Pence signed last week that critics say targets gay people.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Bill would allow businesses to use their religious beliefs in court to fight a discrimination claim. Because gays and lesbians are not protected under Indiana's civil rights law, opponents say the new law formally allows discrimination against that group.
In a press conference Monday, after a week of growing opposition and threats from several high-profile businesses to shift business from the state, top Republican lawmakers said they would introduce specific language that would make it illegal to refuse service to anyone.
The bill would "answer the question of whether this is intended or has the effect to discriminate -- the answer is no," said House Speaker Brian Bosma.
Many businesses were quick to join last week the national opposition to the bill.
Angie's List, one of Indiana's largest companies, said it would halt plans for a $40 million expansion in Indianapolis. Gen Con, a gaming gathering that is the state's largest convention, with an estimated $50 million economic impact, said it is reconsidering Indianapolis as its host city.
The NCAA issued a statement that said it was paying close attention to the bill and its possible impact on its workforce and future events.
The NCAA is headquartered in Indianapolis, and the organization has a contract with the city that says the Final Four will be held in Indy every five years.
"We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill," NCAA President Mark Emmert said. "Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce."
This month's Final Four is expected to bring $71 million into Indy, according to Indianapolis tourism officials.
Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens sent a letter to Emmert urging him to move the group's headquarters to Atlanta, a "city built on tolerance," Dickens wrote.
And Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel contacted a dozen Indiana firms, saying the law should prompt them to consider moving their businesses to Chicago, according to a report in Crain's Chicago Business.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, has already joined other GOP officials in registering opposition to the measure.
Pence appeared on national television on Sunday, saying the criticism was fueled by media misinformation.
"I've been in touch with corporate leaders and with NCAA President Mark Emmert," Pence told "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos. "We've been doing our level best to correct the mischaracterization of this law that has been spread all over the country by many in the media."
He added that he “was open" to a bill that "reiterates, amplifies and clarifies" the law if the General Assembly sends him one.