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By Dan Carden
INDIANAPOLIS — Beset by fear-mongering over which bathroom transgender Hoosiers should use in public places, a top Senate Republican has rewritten his already controversial civil rights proposal to exclude protections for transgender individuals.
State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, on Thursday filed Senate Bill 344. It prohibits most discrimination based on sexual orientation and veteran status, but deletes the gender identity protections Holdman proposed in Senate Bill 100.
“As we all know, there is not consensus on this issue currently, and I believe having an alternative idea to consider will help move the debate forward in a constructive manner,” Holdman said.
He insisted there are numerous questions about how to regulate single-sex bathroom use while guaranteeing civil rights protections to transgender individuals — a bugaboo repeatedly exploited by Advance America and similar conservative groups that warn of “boys in girls’ bathrooms” if Indiana enacts an anti-discrimination law.
Holdman’s plan calls for a study committee to review all issues relating to gender identity discrimination this summer and report back with recommendations for possible legislative action in 2017.
Also under the revised measure, local human rights ordinances that protect transgender individuals could remain in place. That’s a change from his first proposal.
However, no new local protections for transgender Hoosiers could be enacted.
In addition, Senate Bill 344 still permits religious institutions, religiously affiliated entities and most wedding services businesses to ignore the anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and bisexual Hoosiers.
Holdman said both Senate Bill 100 and 344 will be considered this month by the Senate Rules Committee, led by Senate President David Long who supports Holdman’s two bills tactic.
“I believe this is an important discussion for our state to have, but there’s no denying that it is a difficult one,” Long said. “Having multiple approaches for lawmakers to consider at the outset is beneficial to the process.”
Indiana Competes and Freedom Indiana, two groups leading the effort for full LGBT civil rights protections, said an anti-discrimination law that still allows for some discrimination is inadequate.
“Removing protections for any class of people in the effort to update our state’s nondiscrimination law undercuts our work to keep Indiana an attractive place to do business,” said Peter Hanscom, Indiana Competes initiative manager.