Yesterday, the Statehouse was abuzz with activity as the first day of 2016 legislative session got underway.
For months, advocacy organizations, political scientists and the media have been predicting that LGBT non-discrimination will be the hot button issue of session.
Governor Mike Pence might think otherwise. At a press conference yesterday, the governor outlined his 2016 agenda, which included roads funding, increased sentencing for drug offenders, and changes to ISTEP—but no mention of LGBT non-discrimination.
Nevertheless, talk of non-discrimination legislation rippled through Statehouse halls yesterday. CEO of the Indiana Chamber, Kevin Brinegar, a long-time and vocal supporter of extending protections to LGBT Hoosiers, went on record: “We are gonna push really hard for passage of legislation this session because we believe the time has come.”
The Indiana Chamber’s position is in-line with a strong business coalition, a united front of faith leaders, and a super majority (70%) of Hoosiers who support updating Indiana’s civil rights law to include protections on the basis “sexual orientation, gender identity.”
With unprecedented support moving into the 2016 legislative session, our own campaign manager, Chris Paulsen, says she hopes lawmakers are paying attention:
Everyday Hoosiers think that it’s something that we should pass this session. We just want to make sure that the lawmakers are aware of that, and I’m sure they are. They see the same polls we do and, poll after poll, the numbers are going up.
Lawmakers have already introduced legislation (SB 100) that claims to address the need for protecting LGBT Hoosiers from discrimination. Though this proactive step shows that lawmakers are ready to consider solutions to Indiana’s discrimination problem and address reputational fall-out from last year’s disastrous RFRA decision, SB 100 actually does more harm than good.
SB 100 would allow religious exemptions that go further than RFRA. It would void local ordinances across the state that have been effectively protecting LGBT Hoosiers for over a decade in some cases. And in SB 100, the definition of “transgender” is so narrowly defined that it all but excludes this community from protections.
In effect, SB 100 would create a second-class citizenship for LGBT people.
To Paulsen’s mind, “the solution has always been simple.”
Lawmakers have an opportunity in 2016 to do the fair and easy thing: add “sexual orientation, gender identity” to Indiana’s existing civil rights law to extend non-discrimination protections to gay and transgender community members. And call it a day.SHARE THIS STORY