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Nearly 150 businesses are joining forces with advocates of new civil rights protections for gays and lesbians.
The business coalition Indiana Competes will lobby for an anti-discrimination bill in the upcoming legislature. Leaders say the state needs a law to undo damage to the state’s image from this year’s passage of a religious-freedom law, which sparked a national outcry from activists who charged it would legitimize discrimination.
Coalition members include Indiana’s three largest companies — Anthem, Eli Lilly and Cummins — as well as the state’s largest Indiana-based private employer, IU Health. Other members include the Indianapolis tourism bureau VisitIndy, Pacers Sports and Entertainment, and WIBC parent company Emmis Communications.
Cummins chief administration officer Marya Rose says anything that interferes with Indiana’s ability to lure top talent hampers the state’s economic position. She says the civil rights measure is necessary to dispel concerns that gay or lesbian workers wouldn’t be welcome.
Rose and Eli Lilly senior vice president Steve Fry compliment Senate Republicans for unveiling a bill early to get the discussion started. Some gay-rights groups have slammed that bill for incorporating exemptions for religious groups and two-or-three-person wedding businesses, arguing a true civil rights bill can’t allow exceptions.
Rose and Fry aren’t commenting on what the details of a final bill should be, but both say there’s no reason gay rights and religious beliefs can’t coexist. Fry argues both reflect fundamental freedoms that should be not in conflict, but complementary.
Governor Pence has said he’s still studying the issue.