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A coalition of more than 150 businesses from around the state will lobby the Indiana legislature for an LGBT equality law.
This is the third time the business coalition has come together on the controversial issue, and key members said their companies stand to be hurt if the change to the state’s civil rights code doesn’t happen.
“We must ensure our employees and customers are protected against discrimination,” said Scott McCorkle, CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the former ExactTarget, which employs 1,400 people in Downtown Indianapolis.
The Indy Chamber has organized the coalition, using its office space in the Chase Tower. Joining the coalition, called Indiana Competes, is free for businesses, but donations are requested, said Indy Chamber CEO Michael Huber.
“If companies want to contribute, they can,” Huber said Wednesday at the announcement of the coalition’s formation in the JW Marriott Indianapolis hotel. “We’re not looking at a multimillion-dollar media campaign or anything like that.”
The coalition wants the General Assembly to pass a statewide law that ensures legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in housing, employment and other public accommodations.
Any such bill will face certain opposition.
Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, which has fought past efforts to pass statewide LGBT protections, called the business coalition “an unnecessary politicizing of the workforce.”
“It is a divisive move that is not necessary,” Clark said in an email. “Leave those issues at home or after hours where they belong, and let work be about the product or service of the business.”
Ron Johnson, executive director of Indiana Pastors Alliance, also criticized the coalition, saying, “It’s really buying into a false narrative … that there is a large population of LGBT workers who are being discriminated against.”
Johnson also said many top-ranked states for strong job growth don’t have the LGBT civil rights protections that Indiana Competes wants to see in Indiana.
“There are Christian … business owners … who are being fined and discriminated against. Those are the people we should be trying to protect,” he said.
Last spring, the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana set off an uproar from the LGBT community, many business groups and others who felt the act legalized discrimination against people for their sexual preferences. That prompted state legislators to roll back the act’s impact with new legislation providing some LGBT protections. But more legal protections are needed, members of Indiana Competes said.