« Courts - The rise in pro se litigants, the futility of pro bono efforts, and new approaches | Main | Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 1 opinion(s) today (and 2 NFP memorandum decisions) »

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - State-wide civil rights protections for gay citizens far from a done deal

With the amendment of RFRA at the end of the 2015 session of the General Assembly to insure that local human rights ordinances that include sexual orientation and gender identity protection were not adversely affected by the new law, there was much talk that the next step would be to change the state human rights law to encompass such protection. Efforts to pass such legislation at the end of the session failed. Efforts to create a summer committee to work on the issue failed. But meanwhile a number of local communities without such protection successfully amended their human rights ordinances. Until Goshen and Elkhart ...

Today Maureen Hayden of CNHI reports in the Goshen News:

INDIANAPOLIS — As cities around Indiana take up measures to guarantee civil rights protections for gay citizens, conservatives are marshaling forces to stop them.

The group Advance America is taking credit for killing such a measure in Goshen, the latest community to consider adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its local human rights ordinance.

Eric Miller, who heads the Indiana-based organization, said blocking the Goshen measure was essential to stopping a “pro-homosexual agenda” that is sweeping the state and disrupting groundwork for a state law to protect gay rights.

“They knew they had to have Goshen to continue the momentum moving toward a statewide law,” he said. “We’ve put a stop to that.”

Miller is a longtime lobbyist who vehemently opposed same-sex marriage. He pushed the General Assembly to adopt a controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics said was a license for businesses to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens.

Before the religious freedom law was signed, a dozen communities already had human rights ordinances. Nine of them covered sexual orientation or gender identity, though local rules varied.

Once the law passed, local leaders across Indiana started re-examining their ordinances.

Several cities, such as Terre Haute and Martinsville, passed measures in recent months with little debate or controversy. But Miller and other social conservatives decided to draw the line in Goshen and neighboring Elkhart.

Mayors of both cities canceled votes on LGBT ordinances after Miller orchestrated vehement opposition. In Goshen, a city of 32,000, the vote was scheduled for Tuesday’s city council agenda.

Miller’s argument is that local rules protecting sexual orientation and gender identity will force businesses to serve gay couples. And, in tones that his critics call fear-mongering, he said the ordinances will allow cross-dressing men to access women’s bathrooms where they can prey on children.

The American Family Association of Indiana echoes his concerns and urged members across the state to oppose the Goshen ordinance, describing it as “an extension of the moral decay” of the sexual revolution of the late 1960s. * * *

Chris Paulsen of Indiana Equality has supported the local ordinances, arguing that they signal to lawmakers the support among voters for expanded LGBT protections.

“We’ve had a number of wins,” Paulsen said, discounting Miller’s contention that developments in Goshen will kill efforts elsewhere.

But she does believe Miller when he promises massive pressure on elected officials who are considering similar measures.

That includes state lawmakers who were expected to take up the issue of adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s civil rights law next year.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 5, 2015 09:38 AM
Posted to Indiana Government