National News

Indiana Still Hasn’t Learned Its Lesson

Written by Agenda Florida

ARIC CHOKEY
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indiana senators have another day before they debate any changes to a bill that would protect lesbian, gay and bisexual – but not transgender – people from discrimination, as Republicans who control the chamber put off action Monday following a closed-door meeting and lobbying pressure.

“I’m working on some amendments and some other people have asked me to hold it,” said bill author Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle.

The measure has drawn criticism from Democrats and LGBT rights activists who say it does not go far enough. Religious conservatives, meanwhile, argue that while the bill permits exemptions for clergy members and religious businesses and organizations, it would still force people outside those categories to provide services for things they object to like same-sex marriages.

Still, Senate President David Long said last week he intends to bring the measure to the floor for a vote, whether or not it has enough support to pass. He declined Monday to comment on the pending bill.

Long vowed last year to revisit LGBT rights after Indiana drew national criticism for a religious objections law that opponents said sanctioned discrimination against same-sex couples.

Some cities, including Indianapolis and South Bend, already have their own ordinances in place that provide protections that the bill will honor, though ordinances adopted after 2015 wouldn’t be allowed. Taking away that power to establish local protections has drawn criticism from the Indiana Urban Mayors Caucus, which represents Indiana cities with populations larger than 30,000.

“We believe as local elected officials that we should retain the right to work together to enact civil rights protections that make sense for our communities,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a statement from the caucus.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is president of the Mayors Caucus, also spoke against the latest proposal. His city passed an LGBT protection ordinance in 2012.

“I believe that most religious people in Indiana are not committed to discrimination,” Buttigieg said. “It is absolutely possible to balance religious freedom and not discriminate.”

Sen. Ron Alting, R-West Lafayette, recently filed amendments to allow transgender protections from housing discrimination and extending the deadline that cities have to adopt local ordinances.

“I think that is a toe in the water on equal rights,” he said. “I don’t think either one of them go far enough, but here in the General Assembly you learn to compromise. We’ll see what the will of the caucus is and we’ll go from there.”

Photo Credit: indianapublicmedia.org