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South Bend – It’s shaping up to be a big issue in the 2016 General Assembly. A coalition of Indiana businesses pledged Wednesday to support protections for the LGBT community. They laid out their plan in Indianapolis and South Bend.
The coalition is called “Indiana Competes”. The business leaders say they want a state-wide non-discrimination statute that is fully inclusive and ensures that everyone is treated equally. Local business owners and leaders in South Bend say they wanted to be a part of the coalition.
More than 150 businesses across the state teamed up to convince state lawmakers to pass LGBT protections when it comes to employment, housing and public accommodations.
“We truly have talent and companies who were not only looking nationally but globally. So we need to do everything that we can to make sure that our state is as attractive as possible to grow business,” said Peter Hanscom.
Both parties have introduced bills that would prohibit discrimination throughout the state.
Republican Senator Travis Holdman’s version would include clauses for religious freedom. He says he wants to lay everything on the table to get people talking.
But some business owners say they’re worried Holderman’s bill would override the discrimination laws passed by local governments.
“While we will work to make modifications to the language, we look forward to collaborating with legislative leaders and others in the weeks ahead,” said Steve Fry.
The owner of Le Peep in downtown South Bend says it’s a social and economic issue.
“It’s really important to not discriminate in any way in hiring and also who we serve and how we serve them. Very important socially. Economically, we want the pool that we draw from for employment to understand those are our same goals and ideals,” said Peg Dalton.
Goshen business owner Michelle Marquis says she feels like the state of Indiana is making progress.
“Achieving domestic partner benefits watching how that helped employees flourish within the company. I’m not sure I ever expected to get to see it at a state level,” said Michelle Marquis.
The initiative manager for the Indiana Compete says it’s too early for people to be excited or worried about the bills before the legislature. He says the point of this coalition is to add a voice to impact next year’s session.