Indiana Governor Mike Pence on Thursday signed a bill opponents say will allow business owners to refuse to serve members of the LGBT community based on their religious beliefs.

Pence, a Republican, signed the bill in a private ceremony.

The bill seeks to prohibit any state and local laws that “substantially burden” a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. A “person” is defined as an individual, religious institution, business or association.

Pence said in a statement that the bill was needed to ensure “religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law.”

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” he said.

Pence also denied the bill will allow discrimination.

“This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it,” he said. “For more than 20 years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation's anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana.”

Roughly a dozen other states are considering similar legislation.

(Related: Gaming convention threatens to leave Indiana over anti-gay bill.)