Freedom Indiana, Indiana Competes on Super RFRA, LGBT nondiscrimination bills to be heard in committee today January 27, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 27, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS — Freedom Indiana, the statewide grassroots organization fighting to update existing Indiana laws against discrimination to include gay and transgender people, and Indiana Competes, a coalition of nearly 425 Hoosier businesses and associations, today released a joint statement regarding three bills to be heard today in the Senate Judiciary and Senate Rules Committees.

The statement may be attributed to Freedom Indiana campaign manager Chris Paulsen and Indiana Competes initiative director Peter Hanscom.

“We stand together, as we have since the outset of this effort, to make it clear that our state must never again endure the economic and reputational harm caused by last year’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. There is no reason to have that debate again; the outcome can only be another disaster for our state and those who live, work and visit here.

“On the issue of updating our civil rights law to protect gay and transgender people, we are similarly in agreement: The solution is simple, yet lawmakers seem determined to complicate the matter.

“Lawmakers, over the past few decades, have banned discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin or ancestry. Gay and transgender people should be protected in the same way.

“Members of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committees, along with their colleagues in both chambers, have a tremendous opportunity today and this session to do the right thing for our economy and for our residents. We urge them to reject Senate Bill 66 and fix either Senate Bill 100 or 344 to include the transgender community and solve the problem of legal discrimination against LGBT people in our state.”

ABOUT SENATE BILL 66

Senate Bill 66 would enact a new RFRA and create sweeping exemptions that encourage people to pick and choose which laws they’re going to follow. Under the bill, government would have to meet a strict scrutiny standard for claimed impingements on the right to worship, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assemblage or the right to bear arms, making it easy for an individual or any business, no matter how large, to use RFRA to challenge any number of laws.

This would potentially affect not just existing and potential nondiscrimination protections, but it could be used to challenge tax and zoning statutes, public safety regulations and many other laws.

Even worse, Senate Bill 66 would repeal the RFRA “fix” that lawmakers passed last year following a firestorm of national negative publicity over the so-called “license to discriminate” against gay and transgender people. The fix, while imperfect, ensured that RFRA could not be used as a defense to a nondiscrimination claim. By repealing the fix, SB 66 would allow people and businesses to challenge longstanding state and local nondiscrimination laws.

ABOUT SENATE BILL 100

When it was introduced in November 2015, Indiana Senate Bill 100 was presented as a bill to add sexual orientation and gender identity protections to Indiana law, which gay and transgender Hoosiers urgently need. Unfortunately, the bill that was introduced provides little meaningful protection from discrimination for transgender people and includes damaging carve-outs and exemptions targeting all LGBT people in Indiana.

Senate Bill 100 would prohibit cities and towns from enforcing existing or adding meaningful local civil rights protections to achieve fair treatment of their residents and as an economic development tool.

Senate Bill 100 provides limited protections for discrimination based on gender identity, and creates very broad religious and services exemptions that would authorize discrimination against gay and transgender people and either erode or eliminate many longstanding protections under Indiana civil rights law for discrimination based on other currently protected characteristics, including race and sex.

For example, this bill could allow a homeless shelter that receives government funding to turn away a single mother or permit a religiously affiliated hospital to deny someone the ability to make medical decisions for a same-sex spouse.

The bill also includes steep financial penalties that make it harder for anyone to file a discrimination claim.

ABOUT SENATE BILL 344

Senate Bill 344 was introduced in January 2016 as an alternative to Senate Bill 100. They share the same authors in the Indiana Senate.

Senate Bill 344 includes many of the same problems outlined above, and it furthermore provides zero protections for the tens of thousands of transgender people in Indiana. It would instead refer the issue of transgender discrimination to a summer study committee, sending a message that discrimination against this population should remain legal.

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