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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS

America's Religious Rights Showdown. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 2, 2015 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... our telecast for decade. He also founded the crystal Cathedral mega church in California, he was 88. Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Amara, thanks. The CNN Special Report, America's Religious Rights Showdown, starts right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN SPECIAL REPORT, AMERICA'S RELIGIOUS RIGHTS SHOWDOWN HOST: We have special coverage for you of America's religious right's showdown. I'm Chris Cuomo in New York. And boy what a difference a week makes. Tonight we have new laws pass in sign in a matter of hours in two states that were in a totally different places just a week ago. Laws that promise not to discriminate were exposed to potentially do just that.

We saw a transcended backslash from big business, sports groups and entire states to force a change. But this is far from over North Dakota just voted today to deny the LGBT community protect as a class -- protection as class and Georgia is poise to pass a law that looks like the other two that have come under attack, so let's give you the latest.

We begin with CNN Miguel Marquez live outside the state house in Indianapolis which is been the epicenter of this storm, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What an incredible reversal here Chris. Governor Mike Pence assigning only releasing a statement at the end of the day a bill that would fix the Religious Restoration Act here in Indiana. It is the first time in the state's history though, that the sexual orientation and gender identity has been at enshrine in state law in any form whatsoever, nobody is happy though. Conservatives say he went too far, the liberal say that he didn't go far enough and they want to repeal the law and enshrine those laws into their civil rights code. The governor in his statement says it was a furious week during which he prayed but it is done now and time to move forward. Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Miguel, thank you very much for the latest from there. Let's turn out to Victor Blackwell, he's in Arkansas that was the other state and across hairs where religious freedom laws have been amended and quickly pass. Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY WEEKEND: Hey Chris, this shows that lawmakers really can move quickly if they have the right motivation. Remember it was just yesterday that the states Governor Asa Hutchinson ask the state legislature to recall the first religious freedom bill he was sent, because it didn't clearly outline first to amend then protections, it was it close enough to the federal law.

Well in one day, the House or rather the Senate then created that vehicle, both chambers passed it and the Governor signs it within an hour. They had a lot of motivators though, Walmart the states largest employer, private employer insisted that the governor veto that first bill. And after that things moves quickly but there was some push back from the Governor's own party, a state rep said that they should force the governor to either veto or sign the first bill and not allow him t hide behind state legislators.

That didn't happen, it was pass by vote chambers with wide margins. Two import elements here, Chris, we heard from Walmart congratulating the governor for calling for that recall of the first bill. And I spoke with the organizers of the protestant that has been here for the past couple of days. And she said to me that this two bills now won a lot, they're -- they chose the lesser of two evils but they would prefer no evil. Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Victor, thank you very much. And now the final destination of these two laws has made all the more remarkable by the journey to get there, fast and furious. What started as a non-advent of state politics became a main event for an entire nation, of culture conflict like none other that we see in recent history, with power players joining forces like never before. Now no small irony, seven days witness developments of mere biblical proportions. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MIKE PENCE, (R) INDIANA: Today I sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

CUOMO: The bill was approve for Governor Mike Pence, protecting religious minorities but there with the Governor mostly Christian clergy, certainly not religious minorities and not invited the media. Why not?

PENCE: It's just a scheduling matter, it was pretty crowded.

CUOMO: Doesn't look too crowded. Suspicion starts to bubble. Is this law really a shield for the abrade (ph) or a sword for the majority. The governor is clear at first.

PENCE: If I thought it legalize discrimination in anywhere I would have veto it.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, THIS WEEK HOST: So what is the state to sign this law?

PENCE: Absolutely not.

CUOMO: But then Governor Pence stumbles. On ABCs this week he refuses to answer if the law would make discriminating against the LGBT community legal. STEPHANOPOULOS: This is a yes or no question, is advance America right when they say a florist in Indiana can now refuse to serve a gay couple without fear of punishment.

PENCE: Well let me explain to you the purpose of this bill.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes or no.

PENCE: George, this is this is where this debate has gone.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is that true or not?

PENCE: George, look the issue here.

[21:04:59] CUOMO: Questions become pointed concerns. Turns out there other pictures of the signing with these guys. Not religious minorities but they do have a bone to pick with a certain minority.

If several to people in the picture are out spoken critics of gay existence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody has the chance to be who they want to be except for apparently Christians in the wedding industry.

CUOMO: Christian rights advocates start worrying forth insisting this is law isn't about hurting about the LGBT community. When ask if they would insure that by protecting gays as a class that yes, no problem gets contagious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you support the LGBT community being a protected class under Indiana's state law?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just find it ridiculous that the media keeps putting list out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you OK with the LGBT community being a protected class under Indiana state law yes or no?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There aren't any. If you look around the state of Indiana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just say yes, I'm OK with that or no I'm not OK with that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're trying to state that. There's not need for additional protections in Indiana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So then you're saying no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... good people.

CUOMO: Then the big moment, big business, big sports even other states all come out with one voice loud and clear, change this law.

PENCE: It's been a tough week. CUOMO: No small irony the propose fix takes us back to what the Indiana law promise to be from the beginning, a copy of the federal law protecting religious minorities. You can't refuse service, you can use a law like this to defend against lawsuits over refusing service and churches, priests, pastors, et cetera are exempt as always, but defenders of this law seem resolute that this is not over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not about protecting a religious minority. You are about trying to stop the progress of the LGBT community, why not be honest?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because that's not the issue we're discussing right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: This is far over. There are dozens of (inaudible) laws for votes. Next up could be Georgia, we welcome Georgia State Senator Joshua McKoon. He is the author of a bill, much like the ones that have come under fire. Senator, thank you for joining us. Let me ask you, why don't you see Arkansas and Indiana as cautionary tales from the course your about to take?

JOSHUA MCKOON, (R) GEORGIA STATE SENATOR: Well I think Arkansas actually proves the point of what we're doing here in Georgia, they actually -- Governor Hutchinson signed a bill into law today, substantially revising the law, bringing in the line with the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that's what I've been doing from day one with Senate bill 129.

CUOMO: Well the speculation is that your bill reads more like the original Indiana or Arkansas bills that is not like the 93 bill that extends from a person to corporations, that extends from state action to private actions that seems to smack of the same discriminatory potential, is that untrue?

MCKOON: That is absolutely not true. We actually modeled the bill as closely as we could, word for word with the federal statute in terms of the definitions government has to be a part to any action brought under Senate Bill 129, if it were to become law, it's about restraining government from discriminating against people of faith and not allowing the mistreatment of any minority group.

CUOMO: So like what? Where do you see this law being needed?

MCKOON: Well for example here in Georgia, Samantha State University we have a Christian student organization that was kickoff campus for holding a foot wash in ceremony, kind of ironic, we're talking about this one Holy Thursday. Over in middle school in the Atlanta public school system, we have a student that wanted to form a religious student club and he was told that he could not have that club formed, he would have to actually pay the school to rent facilities after school. This are clearly things that violate the sincerely held believes of this individuals and it interferes the right of free exercise. And it has nothing to do with mistreating anyone, it has to do making sure that government bureaucrats understand there's a bright land in what they can and cannot do in terms of interfering with the right of free exercise.

CUOMO: So the big question is would your law allow a baker to deny making a cake for a gay wedding, would that be legal under your law in Georgia?

MCKOON: Under current Georgia law, sexual orientation is not a protected class and so discrimination on that basis can occur today. My law would in no way impact that one way or the other...

CUOMO: So that's a yes.

MCKOON: ...we're not seeking to in able discrimination. And what I'm telling you is that current Georgia law allows that and if we don't act on Senate Bill 129, it was true yesterday, it will be true today, it will be true in the future unless and until that law is change. That is a totally separate debate from the question of whether or not we're going to restrain government from interfering with the individuals right of free exercise.

CUOMO: You don't need to crystal a ball to know, Senator, that that will be the debate that your having next if you pass your bill the way it is, so why not get ahead of it you have a republican member of you legislature propose an amendment to the bill that wouldn't allow to be use to discriminate against classes or would allow the law uses to be a defense that you said no, it would change the purpose of this bill.

[21:10:14] What is that mean?

MCKOON: So the amendment that was offered which has contained in no state Religious Freedom Act around the country. The other 20 states don't have this language. It was poorly drafted. It said that if a local government drafter a law that it could trump the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

What the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does is it allows a judge to perform a balancing test. So if there's a non-discrimination law in place, the judge is going to have to consider that. And there's a Supreme Court cases that make it clear that the government has a fundamental overriding interest in eradicating discrimination.

So, I trust Georgia judges to interpret this law the way judges have in 31 other states and then, all over the federal courts of this country. And that 22-year history, there has never been a court that has ruled and act of discrimination was justified under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

CUOMO: But you know that you often prepare in legislate for potential and the more that you give judges to work with, the better. You could exempt LGBT from discrimination under your bill expressly. You could push at the same time to protect LGBT as a class in your state which is right now not the case and that would ensure what you say you care about which is that this law is not used to discriminate. Because as it stands right now, if the baker wants to not get involved with gay marriage, they'll be able to use this law as a defense, isn't that the true?

MCKOON: Well let me be clear about that. The situation you just described can happen under Georgia law today.

CUOMO: Right.

MCKOON: There's nothing about Senate Bill 129 that impacts that. There are 236 members of the Georgia General Assembly.

CUOMO: Right.

MCKOON: If someone wants to come forward and propose a law that has to do with statewide nondiscrimination, I'm ready to have that discussion, I'm ready to have that debate.

CUOMO: Why aren't you folding into this?

MCKOON: But the fact to the matter is -- the fact of the matter is this is about protecting the right of free exercise. And despite the attempts of the far left outrage machine and their allies in some media organizations, it's not about mistreating anyone and it's never been used to mistreat anyone.

I've never seen a political debate where the opposition -- as you said, you do legislate for potential if that potential has been realized in any sort of reality, if we're going to legislate for every potential case that could come before a court, then, we're going to need to draft hundreds, thousands of statutes to address every potential exercise of religious liberty and if that's the case, we may as well not move forward with the law to begin with and that was point I was making in the House Judiciary Committee last week.

CUOMO: But that is a legitimate point of push back and that is the question about why are motivated to do this law...

MCKOON: I would take...

CUOMO: Is it really about student groups?

MCKOON: I would take -- I would...

CUOMO: You know, is it really about that...

MCKOON: It is.

CUOMO:... or is it about protecting people...

MCKOON: People with faith are being mistreated.

CUOMO: But is it about protecting the...

MCKOON: It's is absolutely about protecting the right of free exercise.

CUOMO: Right. Free exercise of what context?

MCKOON: It's about protecting individuals in this state who are being mistreated...

CUOMO: I understand.

MCKOON: ... by government. It's happening all over our state and the one thing that's -- the common thread through all of these examples is none of it involves anyone being mistreated because of their sexual orientation. And I cannot believe that we are continuing to have this discussion where there is 22 years of case law on the books showing that the other side is being dishonest and disingenuous in this debate.

CUOMO: But here's the point, Senator. You don't have any pattern you can point to of whites for discrimination against Christians and if there were to be any, you could go to call it right now over that because Christians are a protected class. So the idea that they need a law to protect them from discrimination doesn't really make a lot of legal sense and as we see in Indiana and Arkansas, both sets of supporters for their original laws are the same thing you're saying now.

And when they got pressure from business and other states, they then all the sudden had this epiphany and wound up changing your laws to make them like the federal law, because they didn't start that way and neither is yours and you've admit that under your law, you could discriminate if you want it.

MCKOON: No, that law -- The Senate Bill 129 is introduced, was the Federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. And I understand that other states are saying the wisdom of the approach that I took here in Georgia from the beginning and I think that's great. I think we should mirror the federal law because that's a safe harbor. That's something that everybody can appreciate. But let me take issue as something else you said.

CUOMO: Please.

MCKOON: We had a young woman here in Douglasville, Georgia who is wearing a head scarf that was part of her religious faith and she was ordered by a judge to remove that head scarf. Now under current Georgia law that judge can get away with it.

[21:15:01] Under a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, she wouldn't be asked to if she had to participate in the judicial process to violate her sincerely held religious belief by removing a head covering that is an essential part of her sincerely held religious belief.

So it is a real problem. It is occurring in the state and that's why I'm bringing the bill forward.

CUOMO: So head scarfs are more of a concern for you in drafting this bill than insolating people of conscience from having to deal with gay marriage. That's what you're saying. MCKOON: What I'm saying is this bill is designed to protect people of faith all over the state from all walks of life and it has absolutely nothing to do with mistreating any group.

COUMO: All right. Senator, thank you very much for coming with us to the beginning of this process. Let's see where it goes. Thanks for joining us.

MCKOON: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Thanks to the State Senator from Georgia there. We'll follow that. Now, coming up, many who defend religious rights bill say even if, even if you construe this law to potentially allow business to discriminate, it doesn't matter because no one would do that.

We put that proposition to the test and I promise you, you will want to see what people say they are ready to do.

(COMMERICAL BREAK)

CUOMO: A big question here is would a business discriminate against gays and lesbians if they could. Well, see for yourself. CNN's Gary Tuchman went to Jefferson Davis County, Georgia state trying to pass a religious freedom law to find out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Head out to rural Jeff Davis County, Georgia and you don't have to look hard to find supporters of the state's proposed Religious Freedom Restoration Act and they aren't afraid to say why.

If you had gay customers coming here to buy flowers and they said, we want you to come to our commitment ceremony, bring the flower -- marriage is not allowed in the state yet, would you do it?

[21:20:01] JENNIFER WILLIAMS, FLOWER SHOP EMPLOYEE: No. I couldn't.

TUCHMAN: Jennifer Williams is an associate to this flower shop, an observant Southern Baptist, who says she regards the Bible as the rule book for her life. She doesn't believe refusing service to a gay couple is discrimination.

You talk about the Bible, and how important it is. I mean, the Bible talks an awful lot about love and loving your fellow man.

WILLIAMS: Right. And it doesn't mean that I love them any less, because I don't -- I pray for them. I hope...

TUCHMAN: So if you don't serve them, it's not like you're...

WILLIAMS: It's not that I hate them. I don't hate them. But...

TUCHMAN: But you're not loving them if you don't want to serve them, right? WILLIAMS: Well, yeah, you can still love someone. I mean, even though you don't serve them.

TUCHMAN: At another flower shop just down the street, the exact same opinions, from the florist and her son, who is studying to be a Southern Baptist pastor.

MELISSA JEFFCOAT, FLOWER SHOP EMPLOYEE: I would respectfully tell them that I'm sorry, that I just don't want to do it because of my belief.

TUCHMAN: But right now, you know, while Georgia is considering a law to make that legal for you to do that, it is not, and you can get in trouble for doing that.

MELISSA JEFFCOAT: I understand that.

TUCHMAN: So you would be willing to take that risk?

MELISSA JEFFCOAT: Yeah. He died on the cross for me, so that's the least I can do for him.

CARLTON JEFFCOAT, SON OF FLOWER SHOP EMPLOYEE: I serve a God who's higher than any Supreme Court judge. He's called the judge of the universe. And I don't care what anybody else says.

TUCHMAN: So, no matter what, whether it's a law or not, you would not bring your flowers to a gay commitment ceremony?

CARLTON JEFFCOAT: No.

TUCHMAN: There are five florists we found in this area. The employees of three of them did not want to appear on camera. But they all told us the same thing -- that they want this law to pass in Georgia--that they want the right to turn away business from gay people.

Meanwhile in Indiana where religious freedom law has already passed, the owners of the Memories Pizza Parlor in the small town of Walkerton, say they will turn away business from gay newly weds.

CRYSTAL O'CONNOR, CO-OWNER, MEMORIES PIZZA: If a gay couple was to come in, let's say we wanted -- they wanted us to provide them pizzas for wedding, we would have to say no.

TUCHMAN: After Crystal O'Connor's comments aired on local TV, outrage followed in the restaurant closed. One tweet from a high school coach reading "Who's going to Walkerton, Indiana to burn down Memories Pizza with me?"

The assistant police chief of the town now telling CNN, the department is considering charges against the woman who wrote that tweet, and get this, supporters of the family that owns the pizza shop have donated money online to help them out. More than a quarter million dollar so far.

Back in Georgia.

You know, in the Ten Commandment, it says you can't commit adultery-

MELISSA JEFFCOAT: Right.

TUCHMAN: That you need to honor your father and mother. If someone didn't honor their parents or committed adultery, would you serve them?

MELISSA JEFFCOAT: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Well, why would you serve them, but not serve someone who is gay?

MELISSA JEFFCOAT: It's just a different kind of sin to me, and I just don't believe in it.

TUCHMAN: In these flower shops, they are happy to do business with you, but not so much if you tell them you're gay.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Jeff Davis County, Georgia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: All right. Thanks to Gary for that piece. You know, responsibility goes both ways, just like you say "Hey, you are Christian," and you believe in something that's going to keep you from doing business, you also have the responsibility for how you reacted to that perceived discrimination and going after that restaurant that way would be an equal wrong.

Now let's talk about the bigger issues here with Sarah Kate Ellis. She's the CEO and President of GLAAD. She joins us now from Atlanta. And I know Sarah Kate that you join me in that sediment that threatening a restaurant because it expresses what may be seen is some of unfair discrimination is certainly not an answer in the name of tolerance.

So let's talk about the bigger issues. If I am a Christian, which I am, and I were in tolerant of LGBT and I say "I can't do the flowers for your commitment ceremony or wedding because I see that a sin. And you're asking me to partake and sin which me makes as bad as you, I can't do it." What's our answer?

SARAH KATE ELLIS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, GLAAD: While I think it goes beyond flowers and pizza actually, Chris. I think it's more even more so, it's about first responder. If a police officer, if a ambulance doesn't want to pick me up and serve me because of their deeply held religious beliefs, that leads a very dangerous situation.

I'm a mom of twins. I have six years olds. And if somebody a doctor refuse them to service because of who their parents are, because they had gay parents, that could be devastating.

CUOMO: Do you think that that is a realistic outcome? It's very frightening what you suggest. However, you talked to the supporters and lawmakers behind these laws and bills, and they say, "We haven't had a single case of that." What we've had people who can't (inaudible) job. We have had people who the little nuns who want to provide health care and they to have contraception, and those are infringements on religious expression, and by the way, forcing them to partake in gay marriage or ceremonies when they don't want to would also be an infringement?

ELLIS: Yeah, I think that the bigger issue here is that we have 28 states in this country that don't have any protections for LGBT people.

[21:25:06] So we were standing out there virtually naked with no protection in these 28 states. So -- and we -- I do and I think that all can agree that religious freedom is a fundamental right in this country and value.

And so I don't think that's the issue. I think that being, you know, left out in the cold with no protection is the bigger issue that we're talking about.

CUOMO: Why is this law making that situation worse? Either you're protected class or you're not in different states. This law they say it doesn't speak to that at all -- has nothing to do with LBGT. It's just about making sure that state action can't inappropriately affect free exercise of religion.

ELLIS: Well, when you have an unprotected class and then you allow this law on top of it, there's a lot of room for interpretation and there's a lot of room to discriminate.

This is about fundamental discrimination and not protecting a group of people who deserve to be protected in this country.

CUOMO: What do you think happens next? North Dakota just voted not to give class protection to LGBT. You have dozens as many as 82 of these types of laws on the books. What do you think happens?

ELLIS: I think -- well I think this week shown a big -- showed a big light on the situation what we're up against. And I think that businesses have spoken, people have spoken, and I think that they're going to start rethinking what they're doing out there in terms of putting these bills into a factor, into law, that aren't protecting the group of people.

CUOMO: Well it's interesting we have the Georgia lawmaker on who proposed the bill that's up for a vote there. And even thought we just had Gary Tuchman's piece showing that a business is have the ability there. Yes, it's just a few. Yes, we're playing on these flowers business model metaphor because that was the case that came up. But it does sound like they're going to go down that road and there could be implications so we'll stay on it.

Sarah Kate Ellis, thank you very much for joining us.

ELLIS: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. The Indiana uproar had the final four hanging in the balance kind of for a moment at least.

Now, one person saying that the game should be canceled if that law didn't get change, who's the man himself, Sir Charles Barkley. So coming up, you going to want to hear what this man has to say, as always.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: In just past week would started as a kind of quite discrete state law being past just blow up into a national situation, even involve NBA legend Charles Barkley. Now he says he knows discrimination when we see it. And see it in this religious freedom laws. He became part of this impressive combination of business, sport and state to push back, he joins us now by phone.

So Charles, thank you very much for joining us. Mr. Barkley, always a pleasure. Let me ask you why you get involve with this?

CHARLES BARKLEY, NBA LEGEND: Well I think anytime you see discrimination you have to stand up for it because, you know, they're make this strictly about gay rights. But what next if they have Muslim customer coming there or they have somebody who come in on a military and they're against war. I think we have to really be careful because any form of discrimination you have to check it.

CUOMO: Now they say it's about the government discriminating against them, not them discriminating about anyone else. They say that that this is a false narrative, that this is the left just pilling up on the religious and it's the next step in assault against faith in America.

BARKLEY: Listen, I don't think gay people went out to try to go after, they came out as a gay people let get that straight. I don't -- I think that's absurd. And listen, don't try to make this thing about their left or the right. That just politicians pandering to their group, trying to get elected.

This is just about discrimination. Listen, I saw your story about -- if those people just want flowers, they're not trying to trick you into their gay lifestyle spouse, they just want flowers. And love it, you know, typically of the south where I'm from, all these red neck hide behind the bible, that's what they do, that's one of the reason to south is behind in everything. They always hide behind the bible, strictly about discrimination.

CUOMO: Well you know growing up in the faith the word is the truth. And that's what the bible is and the bible says that this is sin specifically in the Old Testament specially. And you're asking them to participate in sin, which makes them as bad as the sinner.

BARKLEY: Well, I thought that was interesting the little flower girl talks about -- you ask her about adultery and different types of sins, she put that over whole separate category. So they want to have selective about their sins. That's another example why they're full of it. They have selective their amnesia, they don't -- they just like gay people. I wish they would just say that. And I'm going to say this. If they want to be like that, I think they have the right to be like that. I think the biggest problem I have, we as a country or have state of Indiana, they make it a law. You have the right in this country to be against gay marriage, but it can never be against -- they can't put it on the book. That was my biggest problem with this whole thing.

COUMO: You really believe that the NCCAA should have pulled the final four from Indiana if this law wasn't changed.

BARKLEY: Well, what I said was and I stick by, they shouldn't get anymore final four into more Super Bowls. Because, Chris, let me tell you something. They can -- you can be gay, you can be straight, you can Spanish, you can speak Polish. The one thing that always speaks loud is in this country is green and that is cash. And that's the only thing the people understood about this entire scenario.

CUOMO: You see no coincidence that when the big business go in involve whether it was Walmart in Arkansas which, you know, home base, 2nd biggest employer there or the big name that step up including the sports organizations that mattered more than the morality of it to the politicians?

BARKLEY: Of course it did, because cash supersedes anything. You can't just -- first of all, those business they need economic opportunity and we're talking hundreds of million of dollars are the (inaudible) for women is in Indiana next year. So, listen money triumphs everything. But first of all let's don't act like money is the most important thing. You can't discriminate against people, Chris, that's the bottom line.

[21:35:01] I would hope they didn't want to serve a black person, I hope that people would come and stand up for me.

CUOMO: Well, but here's a little bit trick, Charles, is that they wouldn't have to. I mean of course you hope would, but being black African-American that's a protective class, LGBT is not

And when you have that discussion with a lot of people supporting this law Charles, they say being black and being gay is nowhere near the same thing because black is a race, gay is choice. In fact a lot of them believe you can fix it. What do you think of that?

BARKLEY: Well, first of all that's (inaudible), there's nothing wrong with being gay. If you're gay your gay. I don't believe you choice to be gay. I don't think anybody would want to the scrutiny that the gay people go through in this country. Do you see what they go through right now? Because that's a perfect example, that's a great question. Who lost this type of scrutiny?

Nobody would say let me be gay so I can't eat at certain restaurant. Nobody is going to serve my wedding or my commitment ceremony. Nobody would choose that. But listen, let's don't up, this is about discrimination. And I know you said blacks are -- first of all, I don't -- we can't act like racism does not exist now. Let's don't act like races does exist. But I think if you open up this kind of (inaudible), it just to opens up, they can say obviously, they can say I'm going to serve black people. I'm not going to serve Hispanics. I just think you have to really be careful when it comes to discrimination. But it just fits what you wanted to fit.

CUOMO: LGBT is particularly vulnerable though because they don't get the protection that other specific minority groups do. And ironically...

BARKLEY: Chris, Chris, you know, why?

CUOMO: Why?

BARKLEY: I've been following the story a week, you know, the one thing I haven't seen on all these networks all week is gay people. And see that's the problem. We got all the straight people. We got somebody religious nut jobs, I might add. But we got all straight people discussing gay problems, issues. That why the system is wrong, that's why a bunch of white guys getting around trying to make a law for black people unless you had black people in the room or like gays in the room. That's the problem with this whole thing. We got a bunch of straight people trying to make law over something that we don't really know anything about.

CUOMO: I understand your point. One, you're assuming all these people are straight who're passing these laws, we don't really know what's in their heads and hearts other than support for the law. Two, we talk to a lot of people who're hetero and homosexual about this issue. Charles, you guys are watching my show in the morning it's called New Day. And we talk just the head of (inaudible) right now.

BARKLEY: Yeah, I know you got my girl Michaela up there.

CUOMO: I got Michaela up there.

BARKLEY: I love the show.

CUOMO: You know, she's lonely now because you're not watching us in the morning Charles, but I'll leave that for another day. You make an interesting point. But don't you think we have to get to the point where you don't need to be other group, to respect the group. You don't need be African-American...

BARKLEY: No, no.

CUOMO: ... and talk about black issue, you don't have to be gay to talk about LGBT.

BARKLEY: Well, first all you don't have to be but clearly America always had a racial problem. Now we have homophobic problem. Yes, we do have to be at the table. I don't -- white guy might like me, he might be my friend, but he don't know what is like to be black and I don't know what is like to be gay. So I want a gay opinion should I invite a gay person to the table. It's like I was talk about when -- I'm very successful in my business life. But I know every single time I go into a big meeting, I'm be the only

black guy in there and it's going to be one another women there. And the rest of the guys are going to be white. So, that's a perfect segue. We need more women at the table, we need more black people at the table. It ain't about being race is (inaudible), it just about being fair.

CUOMO: Charles Barkley, always appreciate you're weighing in on situation and look forward to having on the morning as well. Good luck with (inaudible).

BARKLEY: Hey, thank you. Keep up the great work.

CUOMO: Thank you Charles. All right so, this is issue is going to certainly play in to everything that's going on in culture but as well as politics. If you want to be president then you need to weigh in on this religious freedom laws. And Ted Cruz is getting there first and setting the bar high. He sees a big problem here bigotry, intolerance, discrimination. But guess who is accusing of those things, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: The debate over religious freedom maybe winding down in Indiana and Arkansas but on the road at the White House, it is just getting started.

Now, earlier today, GOP Presidential candidate Ted Cruz and undeclared Presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal doubled down on support for religious freedom laws. Why? What does that mean? Who are they playing to or this is just personal conviction?

Let's bring in CNN Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny and CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. Thank you for both joining us here tonight.

Let me start with something you both enjoy, which is shooting down my proposition. Gloria, I suggest that you have to deal with this if you want to be president in 2016? Am I overshooting?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I think you're right. Look, I think a lot of these Republican Presidential candidates did not expect to be dealing with it this early before they are declared but I tell you why they have to. It's because of their success at the state legislative level. I just look at in some numbers today, Chris.

The Republicans have won 900 legislative seats since Barack Obama became president and there are, you know, the Republican legislatures now outnumbered Democratic once, three to one. What does that mean? That means this legislatures are passing laws like the religious freedom laws and so this candidates now find themselves in the position where they have to respond to it, lots of them...

CUOMO: All right.

BORGER: ... I think. Would have preferred that the Supreme Court just handled this and let it go away but that's not the case.

CUOMO: All right so we're seeing people trying to build-up cache. I mentioned Cruz and Jindal. Jeff, let's listen what they had to say that kind of put them at the forefront of this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: I'm sorry to say it has not been a profile in courage seeing some of the leaders running and scurrying because the media has tried to vilify defending the religious liberty of Americans.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, (R) LOUISIANA: Here in America, we shouldn't those with sincerely held religious beliefs to participate in ceremonies they don't want to. That's the real discrimination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: What's interesting here, Jeff, is that Bobby Jindal is one of the only guys I've heard connect these laws to gay marriage and being Christians not wanting to participate in it.

[21:45:03] It's very hard to find a support of the law to say that. Why does this a good play for these two men?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a good play for the men initially because they have a short-term game in mind here. They are trying to appeal to those social conservatives who are very important in the aisle of caucus as the South Carolina primary. And this is pretty consistent where both of the men have been.

But Senator Cruz did not mention the name Jeb Bush, but that's one of the people he was talking to here. We set a pretty big reversal this week from just in a couple of days of -- on Monday, he said he was standing by the Indiana Governor and then yesterday, he said that everyone sort of has --he was definitely backing off a little bit. So it's a good short-term game for them.

But the problem here, Republican leaders I talked to across the party say, this is a bad thing for them in the general election because of women voters. Women voters, abortion now is not the top issue for them, its discrimination, its picking none other people.

So some of the party of the state level here in Washington across the country are saying that they believe that the party is an verge of making itself even smaller once again and that's not what it need to be once going to back to White House.

BORGER: You know...

CUOMO: Gloria. Yes, please go ahead.

BORGER: You know, I have to left, because also Republicans are saying it's the party of big business, right?

But big business chamber of commerce Republicans, you know, don't side the Ted Cruz. Don't side with Bobby Jindal. Walmart came out and said, in Arkansas, you can't do this, right?

CUOMO: Why do you think they did it, Gloria? Do you think they were just playing to millennials? Do you think that this was a morality play? Why do you think the big businesses came out?

BORGER: I think the big businesses came out because they are big business. They got to do business with everybody in this country and you can't a large corporation in this country and say, you know, we condone any kind of discrimination and any ways shape reform and I think that signal was sent very clearly by Walmart which is the biggest employer in the country.

CUOMO: Right. And so...

BORGER: Right and how could Asa Hutchinson go against that?

CUOMO: And Jeff, let me ask you something. This past week, with all the constipation that we see in Washington D.C. and in government in general, how shocked are you that we saw that we saw in the span of 17 days people from going, setting their position about what these laws were to completely reversing and getting it done in the legislature, all within a week?

ZELENY: I'm actually not that surprised because this is how this issue is moving. Gloria is right on the business thing, I mean, this the -- you cannot go against the business economic interest of your state here. That is just a simply, a stupid thing to do. They realize that so this is the first causal releasing of the, you know, main street or the Republicans Party, if you will, the chamber of commerce and the social conservative in this presidential campaign. So frankly it's bad for business. It's going to be bad for donors too.

It's good at this point of a campaign to sort of reach out to those voters but if Ted Cruz is trying to sort of get big dollar donor, that's going to be hard for him. But it's a -- everything has moved to quickly this week. You're so right about that, Chris. But it's an overall image of how fast does this had moved overall.

In 2004, we didn't hear anyone speaking out against. Somebody is very same thing that were going on. And in this week, this moves so, so fast.

BORGER: But...

CUOMO: Light it up for me, Gloria.

BORGER: But you, Chris, this could have another -- this could have another impact for Ted Cruz in Iowa. This could rally evangelical voters.

CUOMO: Sure.

BORGER: If this becomes a huge wedge issue among Republicans, evangelicals, could say, okay, we're going to come out now more in Iowa and we're going decide about where you stand. And Jeb Bush kind of waffling on this and going back and forth will not help him there.

CUOMO: Right, I mean, I think one thing is for sure here as we end this part pf the show which is that, this wasn't about having a changing conscience. This is about having a changing pressure in this debate. And that could just change again in the next generation that's why we'll keep watching it.

Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much. Gloria Borger, as always, thank you.

BORGER: Thanks, Chris.

ZELENY: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Coming up, so was it a ground swell of humanity? Is that what you think? Was it the demands of morality or did they really just change for one simple reason as you just heard proposed MOLA (ph).

We're going to talk about big business getting involved and the big changes that started happening. What does that mean? Could we have a new political party of Bush?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Here's just simple fact. Walmart did not like Arkansas' proposed religious freedom bill. Now, it wouldn't be that big a deal unless you consider that Walmart is the state's largest private employer. Governor Asa Hutchinson, now he mentioned his son as something that was swaying, but could even sway by something else. Joining us now for some perspective, CNN Money's Cristina Alesci. What do you think?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: You bet yeah. They were a tremendous force, I mean up until earlier this week the governor said that he would sign the bill, Walmart comes out and says it's oppose to it. All the sudden the Governor does in about face. And to me this was one of the most fascinating point for the story because Walmart is known as a conservative company, right. I followed this company for a couple of years.

10 years ago, all you have to do is look at who they donated to on their past, right?

CUOMO: So what change?

ALESCI: Overwhelmingly, Republican. Now their coming to the center, they want to be more -- they want to be more aligned with the middle.

CUOMO: So is this about conviction, conscience or you think it's just bottom line, they want to do business with millennials, they want to do business with everybody, in the millennials and much more accepting an older people. So they're just trying to gather as many, you know, things in one bucket as they can.

ALESCI: I think it has a lot to do with business. But what you may not realize as the private sector has been leading the way when it comes to right in the workforce -- in the workplace and making it a better place to work. In fact, I spoke to the human rights campaign today, and they track employers based on the policies on whether it's a fair workplace, right?

And only 13 companies scored 100 percent back in 2002. Guess what the number is today?

CUOMO: 500.

ALESCI: 366. So there's been a tremendous change in the way companies and everyone that I spoke to, consultants, experts say, the private sector is leading the way.

[21:55:08] And let me let you on in another little secret.

CUOMO: Please.

ALESCI: You know what? American, despite what we've been covering, Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of gay marriage, especially on the younger one. Galloped to the poll last year said, 55 percent of Americans are in favor of gay marriage. Eight out of 10 young ones are in favor of gay marriage.

So it's much easier for these companies to come out and speak about this particular issue. What is going to be interesting to see is what they do on the more controversial issues going forward, right?

When Starbucks tried to start a conversation about race...

CUOMO: This is pretty controversial.

ALESCI: ... huge backlash. Yeah, but there are other things that the company...

CUOMO: Well we'll see, we'll keep watching them and you'll help us with that, I hope.

ALESCI: Absolutely.

CUOMO: Cristina Alesci, thank you very much. We're going to have some closing thoughts about where we go from here, right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right, so now, you know how we got here. But where are we going? What's the way forward for all of us? Now, it's going to be tough to tell, but context may help. And no small irony, this is Easter week. Christians are honoring the Last Supper tonight, as when Jesus asked his disciples to love one another as I have loved you.

[22:00:00] He said that with no qualifications or exclusion. Now the theme for this holy period of Easter is rebirth and renewal. The question is this, will it be an opportunity for us to do better and be better to one another, whether we have faith or not...