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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - "Bill shoots down anti-discrimination protections: Sponsors call it an unintended consequence"

Really.

That is the headline to this story in this morning's Indianapolis Star, reported by Mary Beth Schneider. The brief document, which passed the second house without amendment and is thus eligible to be enrolled and sent to the Governor, is SB 213. In addition to voiding human rights ordinances which bar employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in various Indiana cities, the bill likely also would void provisions mandating health insurance coverage to unmarried partners, if such requirements exist.

From today's lengthy Star story:

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s office says a bill passed by both the Indiana House and Senate will nullify the city’s human rights ordinance, which bars employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

That, said Marc Lotter, a spokesman for the mayor, apparently is the unintended consequence of a bill meant to protect private employers from local mandates on wages and benefits.

Only an hour after the House voted 54-40 for Senate Bill 213 -- the final legislative hurdle to send it to Gov. Mike Pence to be signed into law -- Lotter said a legal review by city attorneys showed it would invalidate sections of that anti-discrimination ordinance that have to do with employment.

Now, Lotter said, a thorough review is being conducted to confirm that and to see if any other ordinances are negated by the sweeping bill now headed to Pence.

Ballard, Lotter said, “is concerned. ... Obviously Mayor Ballard wants to do everything he can to make sure that we are a welcoming and inviting place for business and residents and employees.” * * *

Rep. Mike Speedy, the Indianapolis Republican who sponsored the bill in the House * * * and Sen. Phil Boots, the Crawfordsville Republican who authored the bill, repeatedly have insisted that the measure does not impact equal employment opportunity criteria. Instead, both said, the bill is aimed solely at stopping local governments from requiring private employers to pay wages or benefits better than what is already required by state or federal laws.

Speedy -- a former City-County Council member who voted against the 2005 human rights ordinance -- said nullifying that ordinance “was never my intent.” * * *

Rick Sutton, president of the Indiana Equality Association, also was stunned.

Boots and Bosma’s office had both assured him that SB 213 would not affect any of the human rights ordinances enacted by communities around the state, including the one in Marion County.

“If the mayor’s office is correct, it will be a sorry day for this legislature,” Sutton said. “We weighed in pretty heavily that we didn’t want that to be the intention and were told directly by the speaker’s office that ‘You’ve got nothing to worry about. That’s not the intention of this bill.’ So we’d been assured all the way around.”

ILB: In Indiana, the intention of a law may not be gleaned from the assertions of legislators who worked on a bill, it must be apparent on the face of the law. More from the story:
Earlier Monday, Boots said the bill would not affect anti-discrimination statutes.

“This bill was not intended to interfere with that issue at all,” Boots said. “Primarily (the intent) was to make certain that employment law is not different in different communities.” * * *

“It’s trying to prevent a hodge-podge of different employment benefits and laws around the state,” Boots said. “I never even envisioned that (it would affect discrimination ordinances) because I thought federal law or state law already handles discrimination.”

The problem is that those laws do not mention sexual orientation and gender identity, as the Marion County ordinance does. And SB 213 includes a broad statement barring locals from approving any employment condition greater than state or federal requirements.

“I guess I didn’t think about that,” Boots said. “Discrimination is discrimination, and we don’t want to do that no matter what.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 26, 2013 09:06 AM
Posted to Indiana Government