Bush: Indiana Law Could Have Used 'More Consensus-Oriented Approach'

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Jeb Bush (Ken Borland/CNN)

(CNN) -- Two days after he unequivocally backed Indiana's controversial "religious freedom" law as not "discriminatory at all," former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Wednesday at a private Silicon Valley fundraiser that Indiana could have taken a "better...more consensus-oriented approach."

"By the end of the week, Indiana will be in the right place," Bush said. Indiana lawmakers and Republican Gov. Mike Pence are working to "fix" the law following a nationwide backlash, especially from top businesses.

He also stressed Wednesday that people shouldn't be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation and said Indiana will "probably get to that place."

The remarks were first reported by the New York Times and Bush aides later provided CNN with a transcript of the remarks.

Bush, who is expected to announce a run for president, had said Monday in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the law was "simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs -- to be able to be people of conscience."

"Gov. Pence has done the right thing," he said Monday. "I think if you -- if they actually got briefed on the law that they wouldn't be blasting this law."

Pence and Republican leaders in the state legislature vowed this week to clarify the controversial law to ensure it cannot be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Legal experts believe the law, in its current form, could be used as a defense by businesses looking to deny services to gay and lesbian couples.

Social conservatives lobbied to pass Religious Freedom Restoration Act bills in several states following a wave of pro-gay marriage laws and court rulings in recent years and after businesses in several states were sued for refusing to provide their services for gay weddings.

Some proponents hoped the law could help florists and bakers, for example, fend off lawsuits if they refused to provide their services to gay couples preparing to wed.

But Bush made clear in his remarks Wednesday that those businesses should be protected and detailed his views.

"I do think if you're a florist and you don't want to participate in the arrangement of a wedding, you shouldn't have to be obliged to do that if it goes against your faith because you believe in traditional marriage," Bush said. "Likewise if someone walked into a flower shop as a gay couple and said I want to buy all these off the rack, these flowers, they should have every right to do it. That would be discrimination. But forcing someone to participate in a wedding is not discrimination; it is I think protecting the first amendment right."

Other potential 2016 presidential candidates unequivocally backed the Indiana law, in its current form, blasting opponents for mischaracterizing the law.

Faced with a similar bill on his desk, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, on Wednesday decided to send the bill back to the state legislature for changes that would ensure it could not be used to discriminate.

The-CNN-Wire
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