Six Key Problems With Every LGBT-Related Bill Proposed by Indiana Legislators So Far

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January 22, 2016
Camilla Taylor

Since November 2015, Indiana legislators have introduced a flurry of bills, including Senate Bills 344, 100 and 66, all of which would facilitate discrimination against LGBT people. These bills would hurt LGBT people, not help them. They are non-starters for us. While broadly problematic, these bills all have these key problems:

1. All three bills are “Super RFRAs” that would facilitate religious discrimination. SB 66 would permit even greater religious discrimination by businesses than the federal so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), even after the Supreme Court’s devastating decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The religious exemptions in SB 100 and SB 344 are broader than the religious refusal law passed last spring that has marked Indiana as a state of intolerance, tarnished the state’s reputation, and deprived it of convention revenue. As the nation witnessed, legalizing discrimination drives away business and hurts Indiana companies that are trying to attract and retain talent. Hoosiers deserve better.

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2. SB 100 fails to adequately protect transgender people from discrimination and SB 344 fails to protect transgender people altogether. Without equality for transgender Hoosiers, no bill is acceptable. SB 100 invites businesses and employers to discriminate against LGBT people, by allowing them to create separate dress codes and restroom rules for their LGBT employees. SB 100 would allow businesses to force transgender people to use a restroom or wear clothing that doesn’t match their gender. By completely excluding transgender people from the bill, SB 344 leaves transgender people entirely vulnerable. Both bills are a big step backwards for all LGBT Hoosiers, but particularly transgender people.

3. All three bills would erode local authority to protect people from discrimination through municipal and county ordinances. Last year, advocates fought for the “RFRA fix” that protected the integrity of local ordinances. These bills would undo that.

4. SB 100 and SB 344 would permit publicly funded discrimination by social service agencies. Adoption agencies and others receiving taxpayer funding to serve the public should not be permitted to exclude people from services or benefits based on who they are.

5. SB 100 and SB 344 would permit businesses to refuse to serve same-sex couples celebrating a wedding or anniversary.

6. SB 100 and SB 344 are a “package deal.” In both bills, if one part is struck down by a court because it is unconstitutional, all the other parts, including any protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, go down with it. Many provisions in both of these bills are legally questionable and at least some are likely to be struck down.

Hoosiers are expecting an updating of Indiana’s civil rights laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity without hurtful carve-outs, overly broad religious exemptions and elimination of local protections. Gov. Mike Pence and legislative leadership should know better. Equal should be equal for everyone. It’s as simple as that.