INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indiana Republican lawmakers abandoned efforts to strengthen protections for lesbian, gay and bi-sexual people on Tuesday, opting not to vote on a measure designed to restore the state’s reputation following a national boycott over a religious objections law last year.
Republican Sen. Travis Holdman, who had sponsored the gay rights bill, said on Tuesday that he was “greatly disappointed” but realized there wasn’t enough support for it to pass.
Efforts to find a balance between the civil rights for the LGBT community and religious liberty had satisfied no one, said Sen. David Long, leader of majority Republicans.
“We took a beating from all sides in trying to do this,” Long said. “This effort was unfortunately hampered by well-organized extreme messaging from groups representing both sides of this discussion – many of them from out of state. Neither of those sides were truly seeking a solution.”
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce warned that the failure to act leaves businesses in the state at a disadvantage competing for talented employees.
The backlash last year over the religious objections law may have contributed to the loss of a dozen conventions costing Indiana some $60 million, the tourism group Visit Indy said in a report last month.
The gay-rights group Freedom Indiana said it was disappointed that Republicans decided not to take a vote on the issue.
“We’ve said from the outset that doing nothing was not an option,” the group said in a statement. “Today, lawmakers did nothing to help protect LGBT people in our state, but our work is only just beginning.”
But LGBT groups said it was too early to say if calls for a boycott would resume, although they were not aware of any efforts to do so.
The measure Republicans abandoned was faulted by Democrats and LGBT rights activists for not including transgender people and allowing broad religious exemptions. Religious conservatives said it would still require people to provide services for same-sex marriages even if they had religious objections.
Some evangelical Christians welcomed its demise, saying it would have whittled away religious freedoms. American Family Association of Indiana director Micah Clark said the bill was a “fatally flawed concept.”
The intense debate came as Republican Gov. Mike Pence is struggling to recover from criticism of his leadership. His popularity dipped during the boycott last year and he faces a tough election rematch with the Democrat he narrowly beat four years ago, John Gregg.
In a two-sentence statement Tuesday, Pence spokesman Kara Brooks said the governor “respects” the efforts of lawmakers to pass legislation on gay rights and “appreciates the civility with which this issue was debated.”
Gregg accused Pence of failing to provide leadership as the Legislature considered the issue.
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