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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

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

Apparently the ILB wasn't the only one surprised. Yesterday the ILB posted about Carmel's proposed new non-discrimination ordinance, concluding that the exemption the mayor of Carmel proposed adding to a new anti-discrimination ordinance being considered by the Carmel city council would legitimize refusals by business owners to provide "off-premises services or custom products" within the City of Carmel. Examples that came to the ILB's mind: installation of kitchen counters, termite inspection, etc.

Today Stephanie Wang reports in the Indianapolis Star:

But some experts say the way it is written could unwittingly lead to expanding discrimination in the city.

Carmel’s compromise would allow private business owners to refuse to provide wedding services for same-sex couples as part of the proposal to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals from discrimination. * * *

“I understand the desire to protect religious freedom,” said Indiana University law professor Robert Katz, “but the proposed amendments do so in a way that expands the ability of businesses that serve the public to discriminate on grounds that have nothing to do with religious belief.”

In waiting to see whether the state will move on the hotly contested issue, a handful of Indiana cities have taken on the task of writing sexual orientation and gender identity into local ordinances as protected classes. But with pushback from powerful social conservatives, they’re each left to find their own balance for religious opposition to same-sex marriages.

Carmel’s proposal attempts to directly address opponents’ primary concerns about devoutly Christian bakers or florists, for whom providing services for a same-sex wedding ceremony would violate deeply held beliefs.

“It’s a modest advancement, but it’s a major concession at the same time,” said Robert Dion, a political scientist at the University of Evansville. “In the language of law, they call it dignitary harm. It allows for the dignitary harm that the Supreme Court has already said is impermissible.

“It harms the dignity of a person,” he continued, “to go to a place of business and be told, ‘We don’t serve your kind.’ ”

The advocacy from Carmel’s Republican Mayor Jim Brainard for a nondiscrimination ordinance including sexual orientation and gender identity had already attracted attention in the GOP suburban stronghold. And how it unfolds now, Dion said, could be a microcosm of how a similar Statehouse conversation could go with a Republican supermajority and socially conservative Republican Gov. Mike Pence. * * *

After hours of public comment Monday night, Brainard suggested adding some exemptions to the ordinance. One would allow “the refusal to provide off-business premises personal services,” which would appear to include wedding photographers, caterers and such. Another would allow “the refusal to create or produce custom products requested by customers,” which would seem to cover bakers and florists.

Carmel’s drafted ordinance, however, does not specify that religious reasons must be cited to use those or any other exemptions. Also, unlike some other cities, the exemptions don’t apply only to instances involving sexual orientation or gender identity, which some say could encourage discrimination against other protected classes, such as race and gender.

“Those exemptions are incredibly broad, and they would affect all of the protected classes,” said Jennifer Wagner, spokeswoman for Freedom Indiana, a grass-roots group campaigning for LGBT rights. “It could completely backfire and end up outlining ways for people to discriminate.

“From our vantage point,” she added, “that still allows a category of discrimination to be carved out in law."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 19, 2015 08:41 AM
Posted to Indiana Government