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By Sara Wagner
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – As state lawmakers head into the 2016 session Tuesday, several bills are focusing on protecting civil rights for the LGBT community. The two bills up for proposal, Senate Bill 100 and Senate Bill 2, come after last year’s session centered on the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act.
As it stands currently, Senate Bill 2 and Senate Bill 100 are both intended to extend civil rights protections for the LGBT community, but Senate Bill 100 also includes exemptions for small businesses and religious institutions.
“This really is an extension of protection for the LGBT community, but at the same time providing those protections for those that might as a matter of conscience might not be able to or want to perform a particular function for a same-sex wedding,” Senator Travis Holdman said.
Senate Bill 100 would extend protections for the LGBT community for employment, housing, and public accommodations. Its sponsor, Senator Travis Holdman, hopes the move would also improve the state’s image after the RFRA fallout.
“If folks feel as though their rights aren’t being protected, even if we have no complaints of discrimination, sometimes perception becomes reality. Indiana needs to be viewed as a welcoming state, and we certainly want to do that with our public policies,” Holdman said.
The bill would also provide protections for religious institutions like churches, adoption agencies, and Christian universities. It also gives exemptions to businesses with fewer than four employees for marriage-related activities.
“We provide that protection because I think that our religious liberty is at risk. I think there are just some issues out there that the federal courts look at, and I think we just need to draw a line in the sand and say this is where we’re going to protect folks in Indiana that because of their moral conviction can’t do or participate in some of these things that otherwise we would ask them to do. At the same time, we’re granting protection for the LGBT community so that nobody is discriminated against,” Holdman said.
Holdman said he plans to add an amendment or revise some of the language in the bill within the next week or two. There’s no word yet on what exactly those changes will include.
Senate Bill 2 doesn’t include any exemptions. Instead, it just adds the phrase “gender identity, sexual orientation” to the state’s existing civil rights act.
“It certainly sends a message that in Indiana we’re serious about not discriminating against those individuals,” Senator Tim Lanane said.
Lanane, the bill’s sponsor, said religious institutions are already protected by the constitution. He doesn’t think businesses warrant the same exemptions.
“Whether you have four employees or more, it doesn’t matter. If you say you’re open for business, then you should be open for business to the public,” Lanane said.
Lanane also thinks it’s taken the majority party too long to act on this issue.
“The Republican side, they act like they don’t know what to do. Well, I know what to do. We’ve got our bill- four words and a comma. It should be adopted and we can put this matter to rest,” Lanane said. “If we had just done that last year to counteract the very harmful effects of RFRA, I think we would’ve had the issue behind us now because it would’ve shown clearly that we don’t allow discrimination.”
Both bills also add in extended protections for veterans.SHARE THIS STORY