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The NCAA is joining a business coalition lobbying to expand Indiana’s civil rights laws to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The NCAA’s Indianapolis-based national office is joining Indiana Competes, a high-powered group of businesses urging Indiana lawmakers and Gov. Mike Pence to extend the state’s non-discrimination protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
“The NCAA national office in Indianapolis supports making Indiana a welcoming and inclusive place for people to work, live and enjoy,” Bernard Franklin, the NCAA’s chief inclusion officer and executive vice president for education and community engagement, said in a statement. “The national office is proud to join Indiana Competes as the coalition works to establish fair and equitable policies for all.”
The NCAA played a key role in opposing last year’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and more recently said it would reconsider sites already chosen to host its championships — including Indianapolis — amid the national debate over civil rights protections for LGBT people.
The NCAA is one of several businesses and associations to join Indiana Competes since it formally launched two weeks ago. Also joining the organization: The Indiana Association of Realtors, Allison Transmission, Appirio, OneZone Inc. and the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association.
The group’s creation is largely a response to Indiana’s new RFRA law. The sets a judicial standard for weighing religious objections but prompted boycotts and event cancellations amid concerns it would allow businesses to turn away gay couples for religious reasons Pence and lawmakers quickly implemented a legislative “fix” to prevent the law from being used to circumvent local nondiscrimination ordinances. But the furor drew attention to Indiana’s lack of statewide LGBT protections.
The issue is expected play a prominent role in the upcoming 2016 legislative session. Republican state senators have proposed a “compromise” measure that expands LGBT rights but makes exceptions for religious affiliated groups, small wedding service businesses and bathroom policies.
The proposal has drawn criticism from pro-LGBT groups, who say its protections don’t go far enough, and from social conservatives, who fear it will require them to violate their religious beliefs.