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Every Day, My Son Lives with Discrimination Leslie Barnes
Valparaiso, Ind., Residents Call for Inclusive LGBT Non-Discrimination Law April 27, 2016

Residents of Valparaiso are lobbying their city council members to pass a human rights ordinance that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Since the state government infamously passed a statewide RFRA that gave businesses and other public organizations a “license to discriminate” against LGBT Hoosiers—and then Indiana lawmakers failed to advance comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination legislation this year—advocates across the state have honed in on local action in order to advance protections for LGBT Hoosiers.

Last week, Valparaiso’s Advisory Human Relations Council recommended 6-2 that the full council take up the ordinance for consideration. In an effort to push council members toward passing the ordinance, LGBT residents of Valparaiso and their allies are speaking out about what its like to live in a state where they can be fired, evicted and denied public services just because of who they are or who they love, and how this human rights ordinance can help.

finnFinn McGowan is an organizer who has been working tirelessly to advocate for LGBT rights in Valparaiso and around the state. Finn has watched far too many of his transgender friends fear for their jobs because the law in Indiana does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity/expression. Finn also fears for his safety; as a transgender man, he’s not protected from discrimination in any public place—but if Valparaiso passes its human rights ordinance, he would at least be protected in the city he calls home. Finn has been meeting with lawmakers and educating community members with the hope that soon he’ll be able to live without fear, and that other transgender residents of Valparaiso will also no longer have to limit their involvement in their community due to fears about being targeted for discrimination.

Anthony ByromAnthony Byrom is another advocate for Valparaiso’s ordinance. He is deeply religious, and contrary to what opponents of LGBT non-discrimination ordinances often claim, Anthony does not believe his Christian faith is at odds with equal treatment for all people. In fact, he believes that his religious views call him to join the fight to pass comprehensive protections for LGBT residents of Valparaiso and all Hoosiers.

Heath CarterHeath Carter is an LGBT ally and the chairperson of the Valparaiso Human Relations Council. His was one of the 6 yes votes to advance the ordinance to the full council. Carter’s remarks during discussion of the ordinance took to task the opposition’s view that this ordinance is not necessary and that LGBT residents already have equal rights. That is simply not the case, he said:

“Now, I have also heard people asking, why do we even need this ordinance? I would like to conclude my remarks by addressing this question very directly. I can only presume that those who ask the question feel 100% welcome and included here in Valparaiso and that is a very good thing.  In fact, that is what I hope everyone who lives here will some day experience.  But we are not there yet. While we are a wonderful city in so many ways, some of our neighbors continue to experience exclusion — and not just hurt feelings.  They are victims of vandalism and discrimination of many different kinds.”

Advocates calls for change come on the heels of the Munster City Council’s passage of a similar ordinance on Monday, April 25. Kokomo and Evansville have also recently updated their human rights ordinances to protect LGBT Hoosiers. All of this activity is part of a growing trend of cities and municipalities taking action to pass LGBT non-discrimination ordinances locally when state governments fail to act. And as states like North Carolina pass laws that strip municipalities of their ability to enact LGBT non-discrimination laws, many are now rushing to get such laws on the books.

Freedom Indiana applauds all of the Indiana cities, towns and counties that are taking action to protect LGBT residents when the state has fallen short. However, local solutions are just not enough: legislators must pass statewide non-discrimination protections so that all Hoosiers are protected from discrimination, no matter where they live.

Click here to tell your legislators about this simple solution, and tell them to add four words and a comma—“sexual orientation, gender identity”—to existing civil rights laws.