During his State of the State address, Governor Mike Pence, stated that he would prioritize religious freedom over civil rights protections for LGBT citizens of Indiana. While he also stated that nobody should be mistreated because of “who they love or what they believe”, he made it very clear that he would not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or that interferes with the constitutional rights of citizens.
One need only think about the terrible effects of the 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, to realize that a “fix” is definitely necessary. Last year, following the passage of RFRA, there was a $250 million loss of revenue for Indiana. It appears that we are doomed to a repeat performance. There will, undoubtedly, be more fallout, more boycotts, and more loss of revenue in Indiana due to discrimination against the gay, lesbian, & transgender community. Business owners are already expressing disappointment that Governor Pence is not taking the opportunity to correct the error that he made by signing RFRA into law.
There are several bills proposed that would prohibit LGBT discrimination. However, we know the stance of our Governor. We need to continue to ask legislators to push for adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s civil rights law.
Please ask legislators to vote “NO” on Senate Bill 35, the Transgender Bathroom Access bill, sponsored by Jim Tomes. This bill would make it a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of as much as $5,000, for a transgender person to enter a public bathroom that does not conform to their gender at birth. How would this be monitored? Would citizens be responsible for filing a complaint? Would employees of businesses be responsible for filing a complaint? This bill would also prohibit schools from ever allowing transgender students from using restrooms that match their gender identity. Students would only be identified by the sex assigned to them at birth. That sex would determine which restroom they may use. This would force school corporations to violate Title IX and discriminate against transgender students on the basis of their gender identity. The Indiana Department of Education has repeatedly found that schools cannot refuse access to transgender students on the basis of their gender identity. This bill is totally ludicrous.
Some of the protections proposed for members of the LGBT community would be in the areas of employment, housing, services, and more. The bill most likely to provide civil rights protections for LGBT community members is Senate Bill 2. It is a bill from Senator Timothy Lanane. The bill amends civil rights enforcement statutes to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, veteran status, and ancestry.
I would like to mention that the likely gubernatorial challenger, John Gregg, stated that Governor Pence’s refusal to support extending state civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity is “unconscionable”.
RFRA continues to damage Indiana’s economy and reputation. Please be sure to contact your legislators to ask them to vote for Senate Bill 2, without exemptions. The bill is coming to be known as “Four Words and a Comma”. “Gender Identity, sexual orientation” would be the four words added to Indiana’s anti-discrimination law. This bill is preferred by LGBT rights supporters, including much of the business community, because it does not offer religious exemptions. Original civil rights acts do not contain exemptions. Other states do not have exemptions in their civil rights acts. Everyone is entitled to civil rights. This bill would be effective upon passage.