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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "How local LGBT anti-discrimination laws vary in Indiana" [Updated]

Stephanie Wang of the Indianapolis Star has done a valuable survey of local government efforts to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Some quotes from the long story:

Since the backlash over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, several Indiana cities and towns have taken actions to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

That brings the tally to 15 Indiana communities with anti-discrimination ordinances that include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes — up from 10 before the controversy.

Since RFRA, Muncie, Hammond, Whitestown, Zionsville and Columbus have passed LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances.

Terre Haute, which had already listed sexual orientation as a protected class, added protections for gender identity.

Mayors of Martinsville and Goshen have pursued executive orders.

And a proposal is pending in Carmel.

Most of Indiana’s largest cities — Gary and Fishers are notable exceptions — have LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances in place. Communities as small as Whitestown (population 3,950) and Martinsville (11,855) have taken steps. But without a statewide law addressing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers, gaps still exist in most of Indiana’s midsize and smaller cities.

The strength of the ordinances varies from place to place, too.

For some communities, adding protections for gay and transgender Hoosiers only required updating existing ordinances. Others wrote new ordinances from scratch to enforce a message of diversity and inclusion. * * *

But anti-discrimination ordinances have caused uproar and tension in communities — and not all places have been successful in passing them. Anti-discrimination ordinances failed to even make it to council votes in Elkhart and Goshen after a concerted push from opponents, who said such measures would discriminate against the religious and cause public safety threats in public restrooms. * * *

In Carmel, an anti-discrimination effort — once expected to easily garner support — stalled this month after conservative lobbyist Eric Miller questioned the legal wording of the ordinance.

Among the concerns: the lack of definitions for terms such as sexual orientation, gender identity and religious worship, and the lack of a more defined process for adjudicating complaints.

In Indianapolis, for example, the Office of Equal Opportunity and an oversight board handle all discrimination complaints. The ordinance, which covers the city and Marion County, defines sexual orientation as “an individual’s actual or perceived identity or practice as a lesbian woman, gay male, bisexual person or heterosexual person.”

It defines gender identity as “an individual having or being perceived as having a gender-related self-identity, self-image, appearance, expression or behavior different from those characteristics traditionally associated with the individual’s assigned sex at birth.”

In Carmel, City Councilwoman Luci Snyder compared the suburb’s proposed three-page ordinance with Columbus’ 22-page anti-discrimination ordinance.

But in Columbus, putting LGBT protections in place this summer was a simple addition to an existing ordinance.

“The only changes being made now are the addition of ‘sexual orientation, gender identity, age or veteran status,’ ” Columbus City Councilman Frank Miller wrote in an email to The Indianapolis Star during the debate over the ordinance change, which unanimously passed earlier this month. “No other wording has changed except to define those classes.”

But every ordinance looks a little different.

Some are less powerful than others. In some places, anti-discrimination ordinances can only be voluntarily enforced — that is, if the person or business accused of a violation agrees to cooperate with an investigation.

Some carry fines. In Lafayette, which in 1993 became one of the first cities in the state to have an anti-discrimination ordinance, the human relations commission can fine people $300 if they don’t show up for formal hearings on complaints.

In Zionsville, the nondiscriminatory practices review committee can fine either the complainant or the subject of the complaint $1,250 for each violation.

It’s common for the ordinances to include religious exemptions for churches or religious schools. But in Carmel, officials briefly explored other exemptions intended to allow some wedding services businesses to decline gay customers for religious reasons.

The story includes a graphic showing the status of various cities and counties that have enacted various types of anti-discrimination ordinances that protect sexual orientation, gender identity.

The story also includes this table:

LGBT protections in Indiana

Communities with sexual orientation and gender identity protections: Indianapolis/Marion County, Bloomington/Monroe County, Evansville, West Lafayette, South Bend, New Albany. Added since RFRA: Muncie, Hammond, Zionsville, Terre Haute, Columbus.

Communities with sexual orientation protections: Lafayette/Tippecanoe County, Fort Wayne, Michigan City. Added since RFRA: Whitestown.

Communities with executive orders addressing LGBT protections: Martinsville, Goshen (pending final wording).

ILB: All that is missing are links to a dynamic Star database of the ordinances of each of these communities, and those that follow.

[Updated at 10:13 AM] Stephanie Wang tweets:

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 23, 2015 09:46 AM
Posted to Indiana Government