Future of LGBT Rights in Indiana

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Next week marks the halfway point in the 2016 legislative session, where 4 civil rights bills get their first and perhaps only public hearing this year.

On Tuesday, Hoosier lawmakers will take up the issue of hate crimes, whereby criminal sentences can be enhanced upon proof the crime was motivated by a particular bias against the victim.  In the case of SB220, proof that the victim was targeted in part due to their race; religion; color; sex or gender; disability; national origin; ancestry; sexual orientation or transgender status; or status as a veteran or member of the armed forces, could trigger an enhanced sentence.  

These bias-motivated crimes harm not only the victim but often the entire community that shares the same commonality as the victim.  The house had a similar bill, HB 1268, introduced by a bi-partisan group of lawmakers, that does not appear set for a hearing.  More about these bills can be found here .

On Wednesday, lawmakers will mark the half way point by hearing 3 other bills effecting civil rights.  In the morning, Senate Judiciary Committee will hear SB 66, and at the end of the day, the Senate Rules & Legislative Procedures Committee will hear SB 100 & SB 344.

SB 66 would repeal RFRA and provide that religious and gun rights guaranteed in the Indiana Constitution are declared “fundamental rights”.  It would permit businesses to ignore local human rights ordinances and discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers (and others). It will result in costly litigation to Hoosier taxpayers, as SB 66 oversteps its authority and enters an arena reserved to the courts to declare certain rights “fundamental”.

The Senate will wrap up its day by hearing SB 100 and 344.

Excellent articles on why these bills do more to harm to all Hoosiers in general and the LGBT community in particular can be found in NUVO and Lambda Legal.

SB100 appears, on its face, to grant some protections for LGBT Hoosiers, and SB344 drops the so called protections for transgender Hoosiers for future study.  However, both bills provide religious exemptions, that would permit publicly funded nonprofits and private businesses to refuse to serve LGBT customers. Thanks to the non-severability clause in each bill, these religious carve outs would be challenged, likely ruled unconstitutional, and then any protections offered to LGBT Hoosiers would be eliminated.

Using religion to treat people differently was used by segregationists in the past, is unconstitutional, and has been widely recognized as just plain wrong by those who used it to deny equality to black Americans.  All eyes are on Indiana to see what lawmakers will do.

All three separate bathroom bills appear dead* for the session. These bills would have prohibited transgender Hoosiers from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender, threatening up to a year in jail for one bill.  These bills would’ve violated federal law and cost Hoosiers millions to defend as well as untold economic losses to the state.

Live tweets of each committee meeting will be available @IndyAllies

* No issue is truly dead until the legislature adjourns in March, and language from these bills could be inserted into other bills.

Photo Credit: WikiCommons


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