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Indiana's controversial 'religious freedom' bill signed in private

Despite pressure from opponents, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a "religious freedom" bill into law on Thursday during a private ceremony not open to the press.

Senate Bill 101 prohibits state or local governments from burdening a person's ability to exercise their religion, and takes effect July 1, The Indianapolis Star reports. While it does not mention sexual orientation, critics of the bill are afraid it could lead to people being able to deny services to gays and lesbians on religious grounds. Opponents say the timing of the bill is also suspicious, as it comes after last year's unsuccessful attempt to get a same-sex marriage ban added to Indiana's constitution.

Pence, who was flanked by Franciscan monks and nuns, Orthodox Jews, and evangelical Christians as he signed the bill, said that it is "not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it." Several convention organizers and business executives have said they will no longer come to Indiana, and Pence said he is open to speaking with those concerned about the measure.