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Breaking: Non-Discrimination Bill Dead in Indiana Senate

by Stephen Peters February 02, 2016

Today, HRC responded to the news that SB 344 will not advance in the Indiana Senate. Although it was previously scheduled for a second hearing today, according to the bill’s author, the legislation will not be considered and will therefore fail to meet the required deadline this year. The deeply flawed legislation was a failed attempt to address the damning evidence that continues to emerge from the destruction caused to Indiana’s economy by Gov. Pence’s discriminatory Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) last year, but the Senate had every opportunity to amend the bill to provide real protections for LGBT Hoosiers.

“Indiana lawmakers must move forward legislation this session that would truly safeguard LGBT Hoosiers and visitors from discrimination,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “These lawmakers cannot ignore their responsibility to move Indiana beyond the continuing damage they inflicted on the state last year with an anti-LGBT RFRA. Fully inclusive LGBT non-discrimination protections are what the state desperately needs and what LGBT Hoosiers and visitors deserve.”

Thinly veiled as an attempt to allow discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers to continue while trying to mitigate the tremendous economic damage inflicted on the state from Gov. Pence’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the bill claimed to provide non-discrimination protections but unacceptably left behind transgender Hoosiers, included dangerously broad religious refusal exemptions, undermined existing protections for race and religion, explicitly permitted taxpayer-funded discrimination in adoption agencies, and would have stripped away the authority of local municipalities to pass fully inclusive LGBT non-discrimination protections. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were prepared to offer multiple amendments to the bill, including one that would have corrected the entire piece of deeply flawed legislation by removing all of the language, replacing it with the state’s current civil rights law, and simply adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected categories.

By failing to address the need for real non-discrimination protections, lawmakers are ignoring the damning evidence that continues to emerge from the destruction caused to Indiana’s economy with Gov. Pence’s discriminatory RFRA fight last year. A recent survey from Visit Indy revealed that Indiana lost as much as $60 million in convention-related revenue alone because of the discriminatory law. As reported by the Associated Press, “12 out-of-state groups were surveyed and all said that the state’s controversial religious objections law played a role in their decision to hold their events elsewhere.” The Indianapolis Star recently reported on a new poll that shows economic and reputational damage still looms from last year’s debacle, especially in the tourism industry. In an additional survey, Indianapolis was rated the second worst convention city in the nation for “bad publicity that might deter meeting planners from picking a city.” Following the catastrophe last spring, HRC released a case study last April of the damage Governor Pence and anti-LGBT lawmakers caused in their push for the discriminatory law. In a poll conducted by HRC, a stunning 75 percent of Hoosiers reported that the law damaged Indiana’s business climate.

HRC is a founding member of Freedom Indiana – the statewide grassroots organization fighting to update existing Indiana laws against discrimination to include LGBT Hoosiers.

Stephen Peters
Stephen Peters


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