WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Indiana lawmakers are poised to overhaul their religious freedom law in an effort to ease concerns that it could lead to discrimination -- and they've infuriated social conservative activists in the process.

Republican legislative leaders unveiled a series of changes Thursday morning to the law that triggered intense backlash from businesses, sports associations, pro-LGBT groups and even fiscally-focused conservatives when Gov. Mike Pence signed it last week.

The GOP-dominated House and Senate are set to vote on the legislative fix, which was added into an unrelated bill, on Thursday, sending it to Pence's desk almost immediately.

The changes would prohibit businesses from using the law as a defense in court for refusing "to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing" to any customers based on "race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service."

It doesn't accomplish what the law's critics wanted most: Adding sexual orientation to the list of categories protected by Indiana's anti-discrimination law.

But that debate, GOP legislators acknowledged, is coming soon. House Speaker Brian Bosma said the backlash against the religious freedom law has "opened many perspectives" and that the anti-discrimination law "needs to be discussed."

Social conservatives, meanwhile, lambasted lawmakers for walking away from what they saw as a crucial protection for Christian businesses that did not want to provide services to gays and lesbians -- particularly for same-sex weddings.

Eric Miller, the head of Advance America and a powerful lobbyist who stood behind Pence at last week's private bill signing ceremony, said on his website: "Among the things that will happen, Christian bakers, florists and photographers would now be forced by the government to participate in a homosexual wedding or else they would be punished by the government! That's not right!"

Still, lawmakers said they had to do something.

"What was intended as a message of inclusion was interpreted as a message of exclusion, especially for the LGBT community," Bosma said Thursday morning. "Nothing could have been further from the truth, but it was clear the perception had to be addressed."

The Indiana law and a similar bill that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has asked lawmakers there to change had drawn criticism from major companies like Apple, Walmart and Salesforce, as well as sports associations like the NCAA, NBA and NFL.

Katie Blair, the head of Freedom Indiana, a group that lobbies against anti-LGBT measures and is funded by several of Indiana's largest businesses, said the changes announced Thursday "represent a step in the right direction."

"Today, the harm has been lessened, but we have not reached the day when LGBT Hoosiers can be assured that they can live their lives with freedom from discrimination," Blair said.

Even as they moved to fix the law they'd passed, though, Indiana Republicans maintained that nothing had really been wrong with it in the first place.

"It was misinterpreted," Bosma said. "But all we can say is we are sorry that misinterpretation hurt so many people."

The-CNN-Wire
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