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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - "Key LGBT bills to get hearings this week (today)"

Megan Banta reported Sunday in the $$ Bloomington Herald-Times, in a story that begins:

As state lawmakers prepare to begin the debate over expanding Indiana's civil rights laws to include protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers, Bloomington officials and LGBT advocates have concerns about the first three proposals to receive consideration.

One of the proposals — Senate Bill 66, which lawmakers will discuss at 9 a.m. Wednesday — defines certain rights, including the right to worship, to freely exercise one's religious opinions and right of conscience, to freedom of religion generally and to bear arms, as fundamental. [ILB: SB 66 was withdrawn from consideration this morning.]

It's received criticism from LGBT advocates, including Freedom Indiana, a statewide grassroots campaign working to update Indiana’s civil rights law to protect gay and transgender Hoosiers from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, as being a second version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which the proposal also would repeal.

The other two bills expand protections to include all or part of what many LGBT rights advocates want, although both include exemptions for religious objections. Those proposals — Senate Bills 100 and 344 — will be up for discussion at 4 p.m. Wednesday. [ILB: You may watch the hearing here when it begins]

Local officials and advocates say both of those proposals complicate the issue when there's a simple solution.

"I think those 'four words and a comma' would be a simple enough thing to do to put this all to rest," Bloomington City Council member Susan Sandberg said, referring to proposals that would add "sexual orientation, gender identity" to the state's existing civil rights code.

Worth reading before the hearing is this lengthy Sunday Indianapolis Star story by Tony Cook and Chelsea Schneider, headed "For Indy powerbrokers, a dilemma on LGBT rights." It begins:
Increasingly, an unspoken question hangs over Indiana’s debate on gay rights: How far are the state’s key business leaders willing to go in their push to expand the state’s civil rights laws?

Those leaders flexed their muscles last year to temper the national firestorm that followed the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics feared would open the door to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers.

At the time, those business leaders vowed to continue fighting for full statewide LGBT protections.

But now, nine months later, they’re faced with a dilemma.

Any such legislation could put Gov. Mike Pence in political danger as he faces one of the toughest campaigns of his career.

If Pence opposes expanded protections, as he has in the past, he would run counter to public opinion polls that show a majority of Hoosiers support them. But if he supports an expansion, he risks alienating social conservatives whom he needs to turn out in a tight race.

The best thing for Pence — politically — might be if the legislation never reaches his desk.

That leaves business leaders with a tough choice: Will they go to the mat for LGBT Hoosiers and push to advance civil rights legislation, even if it means handing a potential political advantage to Pence’s union-backed opponent, Democrat John Gregg?

The Indianapolis Star is keeping a running update to today's activities here.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 27, 2016 11:23 AM
Posted to Indiana Government