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What is Freedom Indiana’s goal in the 2016 legislative session?

Freedom Indiana is the statewide grassroots organization that successfully fought a constitutional marriage amendment and sounded the alarm on the economically devastating Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

This session, the group is advocating for legislators to update existing laws against discrimination to include gay and transgender people so no one in Indiana can be fired, denied housing or turned away from public accommodation based on who they are or whom they love.

Why is it necessary to update our civil rights law?

Right now in Indiana, you can legally be fired, denied housing or declined service for being gay or transgender. This omission in our civil rights law became apparent following the enactment of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) during the 2015 legislative session. Lawmakers later had to “fix” that bill to calm a national and international backlash against our state.

RFRA highlighted that gay and transgender people are not protected under our law, a reality of which many Hoosiers were previously unaware. Following RFRA, a majority of Hoosiers support changing the law to make sure those protections are in place.

What do “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” mean?

“Sexual orientation” is the preferred term used when referring to an individual’s physical and/or emotional attraction to the same and/or opposite gender. “Gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual” and “straight” are all examples of sexual orientations. A person’s sexual orientation is distinct from a person’s gender identity and expression.

The term “gender identity,” distinct from the term “sexual orientation,” refers to a person’s innate, deeply felt psychological identification as a man, woman or some other gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth (e.g., the sex listed on their birth certificate).

Is there any pending legislation that would address the issue?

Lawmakers have proposed several bills this session that could address the issue of legal discrimination against gay and transgender people, including the simplest solution of adding four words and a comma — “sexual orientation, gender identity” — to our existing civil rights law.

Unfortunately, some of these proposals fail to provide actual protections for gay and transgender people. After all of the economic and reputational harm that our state suffered during the RFRA fight, the last thing we want to do is create RFRA 2.0, a situation where Indiana is back in the national spotlight for treating LGBT people as second-class citizens.

We need to work hard to make sure lawmakers pass a good bill that protects gay and transgender people from legal discrimination in our state.

Should lawmakers consider a bill that includes sexual orientation but not gender identity?

No. Hoosiers have been clear that they believe gay and transgender people should be protected under our civil rights law, and we view any legislation that omits transgender people as an attempt to license discrimination against transgender people. Our state can and must be open, safe and welcoming to all.

How do we balance religious freedom and civil rights?

There are strong protections for religious freedom in place both in the Indiana and U.S. Constitutions. For decades, Americans and Hoosiers have enacted civil rights laws to protect individuals and groups from discrimination based upon who they are. Each time we have added civil rights protections to our laws, we have rejected exceptions to those protections that would defeat the very purpose of the protections. If you are open for business, you should be open to everyone regardless of race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or veteran status.

What can supporters do to help?

This is a short legislative session that ends in mid-March, and we have to make sure that lawmakers hear what we know the majority of Hoosiers believe: our state civil rights law must be updated to include protections against discrimination for gay and transgender people. The time to make this change is this year, and while we welcome a conversation with lawmakers to help them further understand the issue, doing nothing is not an option.

You can get involved with Freedom Indiana by clicking here to sign up for campaign updates and making sure you’re in touch with your lawmakers to let them know how important this issue is to you.