Freedom Indiana, the gay rights group that formed in 2013 to defeat an effort to enshrine a same-sex marriage ban into the state’s constitution, is pushing back against the state’s new “religious freedom” law, which is increasingly hurting the state’s economy and reputation.
The organization has publicly suggested that state lawmakers adopt an amendment to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that would protect LGBT people from discrimination.
The group is calling their plan the “Fairness for All Hoosiers Act”.
The plan would update Indiana’s civil rights laws to “prohibit discrimination against LGBT Hoosiers in employment, housing and public accommodations.”
The wording mirrors ordinances that are already in place in cities such as South Bend, whose protections are threatened as a result of the new state law.
The proposal would also “clarify that the recently enacted RFRA cannot be used to undermine local or statewide civil rights protections.”
The group is asking voters to contact their lawmakers and Governor Mike Pence to support their effort.
The state’s top Republican leaders in the General Assembly appear open to the idea of changing the law after calls for boycotting the state caught fire on the Internet, although it is not clear how far they are willing to go.
Indiana Senate Pro Tem David Long said at a press conference this morning that it was “not the intent” of the legislature to discriminate against gay and lesbian Hoosiers. Long joined House Speaker Brian Bosma to say that they were working on a legislative fix to “clarify” the law.
Critics of the law say that the contention that the law was not intended to discriminate goes against the facts. The Indiana Senate voted down an amendment that would clarify that the RFRA would not apply to the state’s civil rights laws, or to local ordinances that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Democrats in the state legislature say that the yet-to-be-announced changes to the law are not enough to reverse the damage that is being done to the state’s reputation.
“It’s apparent to me that the Republicans still think that this is a good idea, that this is a good law,” said Indiana Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane. “Discrimination is wrong and it should be illegal. Businesses are heading for the exits, Hoosiers are fearful their neighbors are going to be subject to state-sanctioned discrimination.”
Lanane says that the only solution is a full repeal of the law and adding sexual orientation to the state’s existing anti-discrimination laws.
“We must send a strong signal: in Indiana we do not condone discrimination, we do not tolerate discrimination, and we will not legislate discrimination,” Lanane says.
It’s not clear if either chamber have the necessary votes for either a full repeal or a “clarification” to the language. Republicans hold super majorities in both the Indiana House and the Indiana Senate. Any changes would need to clear both chambers and be signed into law by Governor Mike Pence.
Even if the state’s leaders can muster the votes, the time to act is running out. The Indiana General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on April 31.
Image Credit: Noah Coffey, flickr