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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, February 02, 2016 5:57 pm

LGBT anti-discrimination bill killed

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS - The bill to provide anti-discrimination protections to lesbian, gay and transgender Hoosiers died Tuesday.

The Senate Republican supermajority killed the bill in caucus even though Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said last week the measure would be called for debate whether it had enough votes to pass or not because of the importance of the subject.

Twenty-seven amendments had been filed on Senate Bill 344 and at least some were expected to be debated Tuesday before the news came down.

The key issue that appeared to trip up the bill was including transgender Hoosiers in the bill.

"No matter what I do no matter what I propose I cannot move these walls that are on the right and the left because nobody wants to give," said Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle - the author of the bill. "Nobody wants to move."

Long went out on a limb to push a compromise bill on civil rights this session.

But the caucus chose to halt it before the "blood-letting" of the amendment discussion if the bill didn't have enough support to pass, Long said.

"We tried to find a solution fair to all sides. We were hampered by well-organized extreme messaging by groups representing both sides of this discussion," he said. "My way or the highway doesn't work in the legislative process."

The business community had lined up behind the bill - noting the loss of talent, jobs and investment tied to the issue.

But Gov. Mike Pence made clear he came down on the side of religious liberty.

Conservative evangelicals have argued it is against their religious beliefs, for instance, to provide services for a same-sex wedding.
Freedom Indiana - a grassroots group fighting for equality - acknowledged the bill was flawed.

"We were working to fix it. But doing absolutely nothing? That's not a solution to a very real problem," The group tweeted.

Indiana law doesn’t provide anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation or gender identity the way it does for other classes such as gender, race and national origin.

That means in much of the state, landlords, employers and businesses can freely discriminate against gays.

There are more than a dozen cities – including Fort Wayne – with local protections, though they vary in scope and enforcement. The bill would leave in place those local human rights ordinances passed before Jan. 1.

House Speaker Brian Bosma said: "I said from the beginning this is an extremely difficult lift to accomplish, especially in the short session. To try to find a safe place for the rights of conscience and non discrimination in a way that the majority of folks can agree with is very difficult. it was not shocking to me that it was not ultimately successful."

Senate Democrat Leader Tim Lanane said Democrats were not intractable on the issue, and offered compromised on providing protection for transgenders for housing and employment but not public accommodations.

"It's not that complicated. We've made it more complicated than it should be," he said. "There is no reason we should not have acted boldly this year."