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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - Carmel's proposal to adopt LGBT protections - two surprises

The ILB has been reading about the efforts in the City of Carmel to adopt an ordinance to add LGBT protections to its city code. The ILB assumed that the proposal was to amend Carmel's current non-discrimination ordinance to include "sexual orientation, gender identity or expression" under its protections.

But when I located the draft language, which is in the City Council packet from last evening, it turns out that Carmel currently has no official non-discrimination policy at all.

No only "sexual orientation, gender identity or expression", but also "race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, family or marital status, ancestry, age, and/or veteran status" currently are not protected by ordinance in Carmel. They all would be added to the City of Carmel ordinances by the proposed amendment.

(Some may assert that the language for the non-"sexual orientation, gender identity or expression" categories has been unnecessary because those categories are protected by the state civil rights law.)

The second surprise was in today's IndyStar story recounting last night's council meeting. Stephanie Wang reported:

Several council members said they wanted more time to work out a proposal that could strike a compromise between competing interests.

Republican Mayor Jim Brainard offered changes Monday night that would allow religious business owners to refuse to provide off-premises services or custom products, which could address some of the concerns over catering same-sex weddings.

He said he still expects the council to pass the proposed ordinance.

The proposal brings a fiery political issue to a Republican stronghold that is setting the tone for surrounding suburbs. * * *

The ordinance would establish a citywide policy that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, with exemptions carved out for religious groups. It also would include classes such as race and religion, which are already protected under state and federal law, and it would carry fines of $500 for each violation and for each day until a discriminatory practice is resolved.

Advocates are pushing for the passage of such local ordinances in cities across the state in the run-up to what’s expected to be one of the most controversial issues in next year’s legislative session.

They say the state needs to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes to Indiana’s civil rights law to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. They say Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act raised fears that religious beliefs could be cited as reasons to discriminate in business transactions, housing, employment and education. [ILB emphasis added]

The original proposal offered last evening already has a number of exceptions, including (and remember these would apply to race, religion, etc. as well as LGBT):
(1) Religious worship and clergy while engaged in religious duties or activities; however, business activities by religious institutions or clergy are not excepted;
(2) A not-for-profit membership club organized exclusively for fraternal or religious purposes and/or any not-for-profit social club that is not open to the general public, so long as the same is exempt from taxation under the Internal Revenue Code, as amended; * * *
According to the Star story, the Carmel mayor last night proposed to add to this list of exemptions another, one "that would allow religious business owners to refuse to provide off-premises services or custom products." The term "religious business owners" was not defined in the story.

As our state law currently does not include "sexual orientation, gender identity or expression" under its coverage, this new exemption, if adopted, would seem to affirmatively authorize such refusal to provide off-premises services or custom products within the City of Carmel. Examples that come to mind: installation of kitchen counters, termite inspection ...

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 18, 2015 01:42 PM
Posted to Indiana Government