Response to Governor Mike Pence’s State of the State Address: It’s Time for Our Elected Officials to Lead January 12, 2016

After months of productive conversations with lawmakers with the goal of passing comprehensive non-discrimination protections for gay and transgender Hoosiers, business coalition members are disappointed to hear that ending legal discrimination will not be a top priority for Governor Mike Pence this legislative session.

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In his State of the State address, the Governor underscored that discrimination is not a Hoosier value and that LGBT people should not be harassed or mistreated. However, he made no indication as to how he plans to address discriminatory practices in housing, employment and public places like shopping malls, restaurants or sports venues that impact gay and transgender Hoosiers every day, and that ultimately damages Indiana’s economy by deterring businesses and top talent from the state.

If discrimination runs counter to Hoosier values, our laws should reflect that. Our own initiative manager, Peter Hanscom, said:

[Governor Pence] had an opportunity to lead our state and call for decisive action to show that Indiana is a welcoming state, but his rhetoric indicates he is willing to let Indiana be a state that welcomes most, not all.

Indiana is still reeling from the economic fall-out after Governor Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law last year. RFRA catapulted Indiana to the national stage, garnering negative media attention and blowback from massive national business entities.

Local businesses can testify to the negative impact it’s had on the state’s reputation in the global marketplace. Doug Dayhoff, president of Upland Brewing Co. said that he’s experienced a downturn in interstate exports. At a big festival in North Carolina, some beer enthusiasts told Dayhoff that they didn’t want to buy his beer because they didn’t like “what Indiana stands for.”

Indiana Competes still believes, in order to remedy economic losses attributed to RFRA, and to ensure a sustainable and competitive future for the Hoosier state, the most immediate and common-sense solution is passing comprehensive non-discrimination legislation to protect LGBT Hoosiers.

We hope that lawmakers will take the lead to ensure that all Hoosiers can participate equally in Indiana’s economy and help build a more prosperous future for our state.