Bill Offers Zero Protections For Transgender Hoosiers, Repeals Last Year's Disastrous RFRA But Also Hard-Fought LGBT Protections
After nearly five hours, Indiana Senate Republicans voted for legislation claiming to advance civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, and bisexual Hoosiers that is opposed by both the religious right and LGBT organizations. In a 7-5 vote, lawmakers on the Senate Rules and Procedures Committee decided to pass onto the full senate a bill that repeals the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the hard-fount protections for LGBT people, and replace it with a bill that has zero protections for transgender people, plus increased carve-outs that enable religious discrimination.
"Lawmakers still aren't listening," Freedom Indiana campaign manager Chris Paulsen said in a statement sent to NCRM after Wednesday night's vote. "Tonight, they took a bad bill and made it worse for LGBT people in our state who have to live each day in fear that they could be fired, denied housing or turned away from a public place for who they are."
Ahead of the bill's hearing today, Lambda Legal labeled the bill, SB 344, a "super" RFRA "that would facilitate religious discrimination." Its religious exemptions "are broader than the religious refusal law passed last spring that has marked Indiana as a state of intolerance, tarnished the state's reputation, and deprived it of convention revenue," Camilla Taylor, Counsel at Lambda Legal had warned.
Calling SB 344 "big step backwards for all LGBT Hoosiers, but particularly transgender people, Lambda Legal adds the bill "would erode local authority to protect people from discrimination through municipal and county ordinances," "permit publicly funded discrimination by social service agencies," and "permit businesses to refuse to serve same-sex couples celebrating a wedding or anniversary."
During the extensive hearing, the religious right brought significant out-of-state support. Speakers included infamous icons of the anti-gay establishment. Among them, Melissa Klein, owner of Sweetcakes by Melissa, who was ordered to pay damages to a same-sex couple, and florist Barronelle Stutzman, who also refused to service a same-sex couple.
The legislation was authored by Senate Republicans Travis Holdman and Brandt Hershman.
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