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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "Local Communities Updating Ordinances In Response To RFRA"

Gretchen Frazee has this report for WFYI:

Community leaders across Indiana are updating their ordinances to make sure people can’t be discriminated against based on sexual orientation. The changes are in response to the state's new Religious Freedom law known as RFRA.

Some Hoosiers feared the original version of the law that aims to protect religious liberties would nullify local nondiscrimination ordinances. The legislature amended RFRA last week to say it cannot be used to discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

But some cities are still strengthening their own laws.

Terre Haute Human Relations Commission executive director Jeff Lorick is tasked with creating a proposal to update the city’s 16 year-old ordinance.

“Terre Haute is in a unique position," Lorick said. "As our ordinance stands, the Human Relations Commission office does not have enforcement power, or investigative power or subpoena power.”

That means the city can request people accused of discrimination to rectify the problem but it can’t force them to do so. Lorick says giving his commission that power will save the city money on potential lawsuits and make people in the community feel more valued.

Martinsville is considering passing a human rights ordiance that includes sexual orientation and the Muncie city council Monday added sexual identity to its existing civil rights ordinance.

Read the above in conjunction with this April 5th post, headed "'Do local laws really protect rights of LGBT Hoosiers?' plus a look at some local ordinances."

In addition, the ILB has learned of this April 6th New Albany News & Tribune story by Daniel Suddeath, that reports:

In 2012, the council approved a Human Rights Commission that was sponsored by Councilman Greg Phipps. The commission’s establishing ordinance is stronger than state laws, as it forbids the discrimination of gays when it comes to commerce, housing and work.

According to Phipps, there have been three alleged cases of discrimination reported to the body since 2012. Two involved alleged discrimination regarding gender identity, and the other dealt with a contractor who apparently refused to work on a project for a gay couple.

Phipps said the two gender identity cases have been resolved. It’s critical to create a community where people know their rights will be protected, he continued.

“We will not tolerate any form of discrimination in the city of New Albany,” Phipps said.

But will the council allow the Lord’s Prayer to return to the onset of its meetings? The prayer was pulled from the agenda about two years ago, and was replaced with a “moment of reflection.”

Councilman Dan Coffey voted in favor of the resolution opposing the RFRA, and said it’s also discriminatory to keep the Lord’s Prayer out of the meetings.

He vowed to bring a resolution before the council soon calling for the prayer to be restored. Coffey suggested legal action had been threatened over the prayer before it was pulled, but added “that’s not enough” to remove the act from the meetings without the council’s approval.

Councilman John Gonder — who sponsored the resolution opposing the RFRA — said the removal of the Lord’s Prayer from the meetings was “not intended to denigrate Christians by any means.”

But in a country with religious freedom, it doesn’t seem fair to have a Christian prayer if Muslims, Jewish followers and other religious groups aren’t afforded the same opportunity, Gonder said.

Phipps added he would oppose the resolution because he doesn’t support public prayer as organized in a secular environment. There are even differing versions of the Lord’s Prayer within the Christian religion, so how could the council fairly pick which account to use, Phipps questioned.

What if other council members decide they want to have communion or other religious observances during meetings, he continued to ask.

“If we really want to Christianize it, we could be here for two hours before the start of the meeting,” Phipps said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 8, 2015 11:20 AM
Posted to Indiana Government