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Pennsylvania's Religious Freedom Act Differs From Controversial Indiana Law

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Pennsylvania has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but Indiana took it a step further.

"You know it included corporations," said Gary Van Horn, president of the Delta Foundation, a local gay rights advocacy group.

While government in this state cannot really interfere with an individual or religious groups' discrimination based on religious beliefs, Indiana extended that right to businesses.

Some say that allows companies to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation if their religious faith dictates that.

"If you have strongly held religious beliefs, I believe you should separate that from your business because you're going to turn away a lot of people," observed Zoya Domashnev of Squirrel Hill.

Gay rights groups worry this legalizes discrimination against them.

"It's a privilege to do business in this country," says Van Horn. "It's a privilege to serve people, and we think that everybody should be served no matter who they want to love."

But in a cell phone chat, Pennsylvania Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, a Cranberry Republican, says Pennsylvania should follow Indiana's example.

"Many of my colleagues and I have had discussions related to changes that we would like to see made in Pennsylvania law to further extend protections in statute to Pennsylvanians who own companies to insure that religious liberty is not being violated," Metcalfe told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.

Some agree even if it discriminates against certain people.

"If it's a private organization, they should be able to do that," said Jan Jones of McKeesport. "It's unfortunate that that might happen, but yes they should be able to do that."

Regardless of religious beliefs, the LGBT community in Pennsylvania has less protection than, say, race or gender.

It may come as a shock, but Pennsylvania is one of those states that still allows discrimination against gays when it comes to jobs and housing and the like, although there are some jurisdictions like Pittsburgh and Allegheny County where such discriminatory conduct is illegal.

Despite repeated efforts, a bill to protect gays from discrimination has not yet passed the legislature.

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