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Indiana trying to improve reputation following 'religious freedom' fiasco
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Indiana trying to improve reputation following 'religious freedom' fiasco

Freedom Indiana rally, Valparaiso

Members of Freedom Indiana and opponents of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act cheer as motorists honk in support while driving by Valparaiso's Central Park Plaza more than a week ago.

INDIANAPOLIS | The state's commerce agency has hired a global public relations firm to strengthen Indiana's brand reputation "as a welcoming place to live, visit and do business."

The move by Indiana Economic Development Corp., the state's commerce department, follows last month's worldwide "Boycott Indiana" movement that was prompted by Republican Gov. Mike Pence's enacting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which many people believe provided a license to discriminate under the guise of religion.

A cost estimate of the image-polishing work to be done Porter Novelli, which has an office in Chicago but no Indiana location, was not announced.

The two-year state budget proposal approved last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee added $1 million to tourism funding specifically to undo the damage RFRA caused the state's reputation.

"Indiana continues to have one of the best business climates in the country and hosts a robust travel, tourism and hospitality industry," said Victor Smith, state secretary of commerce. "Now more than ever, we want to remind the world that Hoosiers welcome everyone and that Indiana is a great place for individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses to reach their full potential."

Pence signed a RFRA "fix" April 2, one week after approving the original law, which forbids businesses from refusing to serve anyone on the basis of religious convictions.

However, the Republican-controlled General Assembly has declined to consider adding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers as a protected class under Indiana's civil rights laws, leaving them open to discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations for reasons other than religion.

"Indiana continues to have one of the best business climates in the country and hosts a robust travel, tourism and hospitality industry. Now more than ever, we want to remind the world that Hoosiers welcome everyone and that Indiana is a great place for individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses to reach their full potential." -- Victor Smith, Indiana secretary of commerce

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Letters to the editor on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act issue.

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