« Ind. Law - Legendary IU-Maurer professor Douglass George Boshkoff dies at 85 | Main | Ind. Gov't. - "Senate Republicans file LGBT bill with religious exemptions" »

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "LGBT bill draws swift criticism: State Senate to tackle religious liberty, discrimination"

That is the headline to Niki Kelly's story today in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Some quotes:

INDIANAPOLIS – Senate Republicans unveiled a bill (draft bill available here) Tuesday that would provide some discrimination protections for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, but with carve-outs and language sure to rile both sides of the contentious issue.

“We’ll roll up our sleeves and deal with the issue of religious liberty and discrimination,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne.

The bill was filed on the General Assembly’s Organization Day – the procedural kickoff to the session that starts in earnest Jan. 5. The issue is sure to dominate the 2016 session following a damaging fight over religious freedom this year.

Long called the initial proposal solid and said it attempts to find common ground in a changing world.

The bill immediately drew criticism from the conservative right – hundreds of whom gathered Tuesday in the Statehouse to pray and rally for religious liberty.

Monica Boyer said she is surprised and disappointed that Senate Republicans would allow the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to be placed in the civil rights code at all. “They come to our churches and our homes and ask for our vote and tell us they will stand and then come here and compromise,” she said.

Boyer is a tea party leader from Kosciusko County who brought several hundred Hoosiers from northeast Indiana to the Statehouse on Tuesday. “We all have individual rights. There is no need to protect a group of people based on what happens in the bedroom,” she said.

LGBT supporters want to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s civil rights statute, which already protects against discrimination based on race, gender, national origin and more in hiring, housing and public accommodations.

The public accommodations part of the proposal seems to be causing the most heartburn for religious Hoosiers who own businesses and don’t want to provide services for gay weddings.

Some communities in the state have these protections in local ordinances, with varying levels of enforcement. There is no statewide ban on discriminating against gays and lesbians.

Long has promised a hearing on the bill, which he said tries to balance religious freedom and discrimination protections. House Speaker Brian Bosma has been much more detached on the issue, saying it’s probably worth a conversation but is up to the members of the House and Senate.

The proposed legislation – Senate Bill 100 – would generally bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and employment.

But it allows businesses that provide marriage-related accommodations – and that have fewer than four full-time employees – to refuse service for reasons related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Long said larger businesses would not be exempt because they would have other employees available to do the work.

But there is no requirement in the exemption for the business owners or employees to have deeply held religious beliefs. “They could just not like certain people,” Senate Democratic leader Tim Lanane said. “They don’t have to step one foot in church.”

The gender identity language also could be problematic. Under the bill, people claiming discrimination on grounds of gender discrimination would have to show medical history, care or treatment relating to gender identity in the past year. If that is not possible, they would have to show consistent and uniform assertions of one’s gender identity for at least one year.

Long said it is necessary to draw a line so that not everyone can wake up one day and demand protections.

The bill also delves into the issue of restroom usage in schools and public places by stating that it is not discriminatory or unlawful segregation to have restroom and shower policies, as well as dress codes, based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

“This bathroom issue is contentious,” Long said. “It has people’s heads exploding.” * * *

The bill would invalidate all those local ordinances so that Indiana would have one statewide civil rights code.

"Republicans’ LGBT protections bill draws criticism on both sides" is the headline to the very long Indianapolis Star story today, reported by Tony Cook, Stephanie Wang and Chelsea Schneider. Some quotes:
In the opening salvo of what is likely to be a long and arduous debate, Indiana Senate Republicans introduced legislation Tuesday that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's civil rights laws while carving out several exemptions for those with strong religious objections.

The measure would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations.

But exemptions would allow schools, employers and others to determine their own restroom policies for transgender people; businesses with fewer than four employees to refuse wedding services to same-sex couples; and religious-affiliated adoption agencies to reject prospective same-sex parents.

"This bill is an attempt to balance civil rights and religious liberty," Senate President Pro Tempore David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said in announcing the proposal.

Several legal experts who reviewed the proposed legislation described it as a serious attempt to balance religious interests and LGBT rights, but the measure immediately drew criticism from advocates on both sides of the issue. * * *

Some LGBT advocates said the proposal's religious exemptions treat sexual orientation and gender identity differently than other protected classes.

“This bill is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, This doesn’t protect LGBT people — it is a road map for discrimination against LGBT people," said Jennifer Pizer, law and policy project director at Lambda Legal. “It aims to guarantee the right of some medical, social services and other institutions to discriminate against married same-sex couples, and to do so with taxpayer dollars. It aims to write separate, lesser protections for LGBT people into state law."

But the proposal also drew the ire of religious conservatives, who fear any protections for LGBT Hoosiers would interfere with their Christian beliefs. * * *

[The bill] includes exceptions for churches and religious-affiliated institutions such as private universities, adoption agencies and day care providers.

Transgender people would be required to live as their preferred gender for a year or receive a medical opinion before filing a discrimination complaint.

The measure would also create a $1,000 penalty for "frivolous" discrimination complaints and prohibit local governments from enacting stricter non-discrimination ordinances.

"Lawmakers: Balance LGBT civil rights, religious liberty" reads the heading to Dan Carden's story in the NWI Times. Some quotes:
The Statehouse was alive Tuesday with mid-session fervor as supporters and opponents of a proposal to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity held competing rallies at opposite ends of the 127-year-old building.

In the middle, the 100 state representatives and 50 senators attended to the ceremonial Organization Day traditions for the 2016 legislative session, so lawmakers can get right to work when the 10-week regular meeting of the General Assembly convenes Jan. 5. * * *

In the Senate, state Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, released a draft of his proposed civil rights legislation aimed at balancing anti-discrimination with religious liberty.

Senate Bill 100, which Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, has promised will receive a committee hearing, adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's civil rights law — but also includes a five-page list of exemptions for organizations claiming a religious affiliation.

In particular, religious entities would be permitted to receive government contracts even if they discriminate in hiring based on religion, or require their employees to follow a lifestyle dictated by claimed religious beliefs.

Local civil rights ordinances also would be superseded by the state law, business and other entities could restrict bathroom use based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and any person making a false discrimination claim could be fined up to $1,000.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 18, 2015 08:58 AM
Posted to Indiana Government