A brand new survey from Visit Indy is set to be released on Thursday that shows Indiana lost as much as $60 million in convention revenue alone because of last year’s disastrous and divisive Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) fight. As reported by the Associated Press late last night, “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 news comes as Indiana lawmakers appear poised to double down on the debacle by considering an even more dangerous and extreme measure tomorrow in the Senate Judiciary Committee. This new proposal is a “Super RFRA” – Senate Bill 66 – that could allow anyone who claims a religious exemption the right to discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers, visitors, and other minorities.
“The evidence of the disastrous consequences from Gov. Pence’s discriminatory RFRA fight last year is undeniable,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “Despite the profound economic damage they inflicted on the state last year, anti-LGBT lawmakers are so vehemently opposed to equality that they are pushing for an even more catastrophic ‘Super RFRA’ this year. This disgraceful proposal could allow anyone in the state the right to discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers, visitors, and other minorities. The lawmakers’ blatant defiance and disregard for the economic well-being and reputation of the state defies all logic and reason.”
The brand new analysis from Visit Indy is further evidence of the consequences from last year’s fight. Just last week, the Indianapolis Star 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. It also showed that, when asked, “Do you think businesses should or should not be allowed to refuse service to someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” voters said businesses should not discriminate by an overwhelming margin of 70 to 24. A majority of Republican voters (58 to 36) said that businesses should not be allowed to discriminate.
The new “Super RFRA” being considered tomorrow in the Senate Judiciary Committee is even more dangerous than last year’s law. After demands from fair-minded Hoosiers and Indiana-based businesses to “fix” last year’s disastrous law, Pence signed legislation trying to limit the damage by attempting to clarify the RFRA could not be used to opt out of select non-discrimination protections. That legislation unfortunately fell far short of providing a full solution because it failed to explicitly ensure that the RFRA could not be used to undermine the full scope of Indiana’s existing non-discrimination laws, and it did not add protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity to the state’s civil rights laws. Proposed as definitions for the state constitution, the new “super-RFRA” would strip away those clarifications that Pence signed regarding non-discrimination protections, swinging the door wide open for blatant discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers, visitors, and other minorities. The legislation is being pushed by extreme anti-LGBT Republican Senators Michael Young, Phil Boots, Jim Banks, and Dennis Kruse.
In total, there are six anti-LGBT bills under consideration in Indiana’s legislature this year – including a vehemently discriminatory bill attacking transgender Hoosiers. Senate Bill 35, introduced by anti-LGBT Republican Senator Jim Tomes, seeks to criminalize transgender people for using restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. Two non-discrimination bills are also scheduled for a committee hearing tomorrow, but they fall far short of the full protections that LGBT Hoosiers need and deserve. Senate Bill 100 claims to update Indiana’s civil rights law, but would actually override existing municipal civil rights protections and write broad religious exemptions into law, among other serious problems. Senate Bill 344 also seeks to update Indiana’s civil rights law, but it unacceptably excludes any and all protections for transgender Hoosiers.
The anti-LGBT legislation in Indiana is part of an onslaught of bills being pushed in 2016 by anti-equality activists around the country. HRC is currently tracking over 100 anti-LGBT bills in 26 states. These measures range from legislation attempting to undermine marriage equality; proposals aimed to authorize individuals, businesses, and taxpayer-funded agencies to cite religion as a legal reason to refuse goods or services to LGBT people; bills seeking to restrict or criminalize transgender people who use restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identity; and even legislation aimed at eliminating the ability of local governments to protect LGBT residents and visitors. For more information, visit: www.hrc.org/2016legislature.
HRC is a founding member of Freedom Indiana – the statewide grassroots organization fighting to update existing Indiana laws against discrimination to include LGBT Hoosiers.