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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "Freedom Indiana faces tough challenge over LGBT rights" Plus some ILB thoughts

Good, and long, story today by Stephanie Wang in the Lafayette Journal & Courier. Some quotes:

For the third time in as many years, Freedom Indiana will call upon its groundswell of supporters to fight for gay rights.

This time could prove to be a tougher fight.

In championing the case for civil rights protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers, the grassroots advocacy organization is hoping for a repeat of its previous successes: the defeat of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the 2014 session, and last session’s “fix” of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

But this time, the group is dealing with a volatile issue that has been baking under the public pressure of the RFRA controversy. This time, the group is dealing with a messy issue, one with many moving parts.

Consider that as Indiana cities have debated their own local human rights ordinances, they have each written their own different versions of varying strength. In Fort Wayne, for example, sexual orientation is protected but gender identity is not. In Evansville, both are covered but compliance with the law is voluntary. In Indianapolis, preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is treated no differently than race or religion. In Carmel, officials are examining possible legal exemptions to allow businesses to decline to cater same-sex weddings.

ILB: And according to this AP story today:
COLUMBUS, Ind. – The Columbus City Council has approved amendments to the Indiana city’s human rights ordinance, adding gender identity, sexual orientation, age and veteran status as protected classes.

The vote Tuesday by the all-Republican body was unanimous. The ordinance now goes to Mayor Kristen Brown for her signature.

More from the story by reporter Wang:
Unlike with stopping the same-sex marriage ban, political scientist Andy Downs said it could be harder to keep Freedom Indiana’s coalition together behind this current issue, with so many possible ways the legislation could be written.

“It’s easier to rally people around stopping something than starting something,” said Downs, who works at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, “in part because the details end up mattering more.”

He explained: “Collectively, we all hate x. But collectively, we can’t agree what we like.”

Freedom Indiana and many others discussing the issue, including state lawmakers, remain guarded on specifics, saying little now about details of campaign plans or possible legislative language.

Businesses such as Eli Lilly and Cummins — both of which helped fund the start of Freedom Indiana in 2013 — have committed to supporting expanded civil rights protections. * * *

In the legislature, opponents of sexual orientation and gender identity protections may benefit from the same dynamic that could work against Freedom Indiana, said Downs, the political scientist: It may be easier for those groups to defeat legislation than create it.

“However,” he added, “the challenge is that they have to come up with a reason that is palatable to defeat it. And there, they can disagree.”

Those groups could focus their arguments on contesting legal details, pushing moral issues or protesting too much government intrusion, Downs said: “If they all start talking about their own reasons for being opposed to it, that could cause some splintering.” * * *

For now, interested parties are closely watching how cities grapple with the issue: What kind of exemptions will they build into their laws to balance religious rights and LGBT rights? What strategies on either side of the issue resonate the strongest? Who exerts the most pressure on elected officials?

And how do officials deal with the fears — the confusion over what the law will do and what it won’t? Legislation would, for example, strike an inaugural conversation in the state about transgender rights.

ILB thoughts: If there currently exists a resource containing all the newly amended municipal ordinances expanding local human rights ordinances, the ILB does not know about it. It would be helpful if this information were compiled in one place, readily accessible to all. If such a resource doesn't already exist, the ILB would be pleased to host it, or to help set it up.

Second, in terms of legislation, there are many, many routes for equal rights supporters to take. Here are some of them:

This list illustrates how the efforts of gay rights supporters in the coming session could be diffused and scattered, if focus and discipline is not maintained.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 16, 2015 08:50 AM
Posted to Indiana Government