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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - " Indiana this year will not enact legislation specifically protecting the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers"

This is the lede to Dan Carden's story today in the NWI Times about yesterday's decision by the Senate Republican caucus. Some quotes:

Senate Bill 344 failed to advance Tuesday for a final vote by the Republican-controlled Senate after its sponsor, state Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, declined to allow senators to consider changes to the measure.

His decision ends some 10 months of debate over whether Indiana would adopt an LGBT anti-discrimination law to wipe away lingering controversy tied to approval for the 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was widely seen as licensing discrimination against gays and prompted nationwide boycotts of Indiana businesses.

As a result, RFRA remains law in Indiana with the caveat that Hoosiers cannot use "religious freedom" to discriminate against LGBT individuals.

LGBT Hoosiers still can be denied employment, housing and access to public accommodations for any other reason, except in communities with local ordinances prohibiting such discrimination.

Holdman said, despite his best efforts to craft legislation balancing civil liberties with strong protections for religious freedom, he simply could not find enough Senate support for the plan that was approved 7-5 last week by the Rules Committee. * * *

"I believe the balanced approach that was outlined in the bill would be a step forward for our state," Holdman said. * * *

Senators clearly disagreed, filing 27 proposed changes to the measure.

After an extended private discussion Tuesday among Senate Republicans about the amendments, Holdman decided to kill his proposal rather than watch it become unrecognizable.

Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said it wasn't clear the legislation would pass the Senate, even if any or all of the suggested changes were adopted.

"They didn't want to go through the pain of having all this discussion if, in fact, in the end the bill was not going to move," Long said.

"We also got messages from the House that they weren't really probably going to seriously consider it. I don't know what the message was from down on the second floor; we still aren't sure what the governor would or wouldn't have done."

"All of that weighed into a difficult environment for us," Long said.

"Why Indiana lawmakers killed the gay rights debate for this year" is the headline to this lengthy Indianapolis Star story by Stephanie Wang, Chelsea Schneider and Tony Cook, that begins:
The gay rights debate in the Indiana General Assembly this year is over.

After meeting privately, Senate Republican leaders decided Tuesday to kill legislation that would have protected gay Hoosiers from discrimination. They did so without a full debate or vote.

Senate leader David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said the legislation didn’t have enough support from Republicans to warrant further discussion.

The failure of legislation this session means lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers can still be legally discriminated against in most of the state. A person's sexual orientation or gender identity can be used as a reason by a landlord who turns them away from housing, an employer who fires them from a job, or a business owner who refuses to serve them.

The end of the debate marks a huge win for religious conservatives, who have been battling a changing cultural tide on gay rights issues. It also relieves political pressure on Republican Gov. Mike Pence, a born-again Christian who last month questioned the need for such legislation, as he seeks re-election.

Pulling the plug on legislation deals a blow to influential Indiana businesses that pushed for LGBT rights, and to advocacy groups that have, until now, successfully fought to advance the status of LGBT Hoosiers.

Still, Long pledged to revive the issue next year, and said he thinks LGBT rights in Indiana are inevitable.

“It just depends on when,” he said.

He said apprehensions from Pence and House Speaker Brian Bosma over advancing gay rights factored into his decision to stop pursuing legislation.

It was a swift death for the gay rights proposal, Senate Bill 344, which was carried by Republican leadership in the Senate. Last week, a Senate committee crafted and gave initial approval to the proposal to extend civil rights to gay Hoosiers, but not transgender people, with some exemptions for religious organizations, faith-based groups and small businesses providing wedding services.

As recently as Thursday, Long said he would bring the debate before the full Senate, stressing the importance of public discussion.

But Tuesday, Senate leaders said both sides remained too entrenched to reach a workable compromise.

"No matter what I do, no matter what I propose," said bill author Travis Holdman, R-Markle, "I cannot move these walls that are on the right and the left hand, because nobody wants to give. Nobody wants to move."

"The movement to provide anti-discrimination protections to lesbian, gay and transgender Hoosiers died Tuesday with barely a fight." That is the lede to Niki Kelly's story today in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. More:
Instead of hashing out 27 amendments filed on Senate Bill 344, the Senate Republican supermajority killed the bill behind closed doors in caucus. This came despite Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, saying last week the measure would be called for debate whether it had enough votes to pass or not.

The issue that led to the bill’s demise was whether or not to include gender identity in the bill to aid transgender Hoosiers.

“No matter what I do, no matter what I propose, I cannot move these walls that are on the right and the left because nobody wants to give,” said Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, the author of the bill. “Nobody wants to move.”

Long went out on a limb to push a compromise bill on civil rights this session. But the caucus chose to halt it before the “blood-letting” of the amendment discussion, since the bill didn’t have enough support to pass, Long said.

“We tried to find a solution fair to all sides. We were hampered by well-organized extreme messaging by groups representing both sides of this discussion,” he said. “My way or the highway doesn’t work in the legislative process.”

He added that “we tried very hard to find consensus. We stumbled on the transgender issue.”

The topic of bathroom usage had complicated that part of the bill, which is why Holdman removed it entirely.

The business community had lined up behind the effort – noting the loss of talent, jobs and investment tied to the issue. And grass-roots equality group Freedom Indiana has lined the halls of the Statehouse with supporters.

But Gov. Mike Pence made clear he came down on the side of religious liberty. Conservative evangelicals have argued it is against their religious beliefs, for instance, to provide services for a same-sex wedding. * * *

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane said Democrats were not intractable on the issue, and offered compromises providing protection for transgender Hoosiers for housing and employment but not public accommodations.

“It’s not that complicated. We’ve made it more complicated than it should be,” he said. “There is no reason we should not have acted boldly this year.”

Indiana Competes said Senate Bill 344 was flawed “but it generated the most substantive conversation Indiana has seen regarding anti-discrimination legislation for the LGBT community.”

“This issue will not disappear. A clear majority of Hoosiers support robust protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Long said almost half the state is covered by a local ordinance and he expects that to grow – something that will put pressure on a state law. He also said he fears religious liberty will lose if courts are involved.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 3, 2016 09:10 AM
Posted to Indiana Government