On Wednesday, Indiana lawmakers announced that after failing to pass commonsense protections for LGBT people during this year's legislative session that ended in March, they have assigned the issue to a summer study committee to delve deeper into the issue of whether the state’s civil rights law should include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Earlier this year, lawmakers failed to advance two bills that would have extended protections to LGBT people. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Timothy Lanane and Republican Senator Rob Alting both introduced legislation to amend the state’s existing non-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.Unfortunately, both bills failed to gain the legislative support necessary to become law. An incredible 70 percent of Hoosiers support passing state LGBT non-discrimination protections.
While a study is not necessary or required in Indiana to pass a fully inclusive non-discrimination bill, it is a common practice for controversial issues that the legislature is seriously considering and a step toward aiding Indiana’s damaged reputation after the legislature passed a highly contentious religious refusal law last year. The law triggered widespread outrage, damaging both the state’s reputation and its business climate.
After demands from fair-minded Hoosiers and Indiana-based businesses to “fix” the disastrous law, Pence signed legislation trying to limit the damage by attempting to clarify that the RFRA could not be used to opt out of certain non-discrimination protections. That legislation, however, did not add protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity to the state’s civil rights laws.
The state is still suffering from the fallout. In January, the Indianapolis Star reported that damage from the battle over the law is lingering, particularly in the tourism industry. Another survey rated Indianapolis the second worst convention city in the nation, citing, in part, “bad publicity that might deter meeting planners from picking a city.”
HRC urges the legislature to do the right thing and pass fully inclusive state non-discrimination protections when it reconvenes next year.