Committee OKs Adjusted Civil Rights Bill

Senator David Long (R-16) is chair of the Rules & Legislative Procedure Committee and presided over Wednesday's often-emotional hearing. Senator David Long (R-16) is chair of the Rules & Legislative Procedure Committee and presided over Wednesday's often-emotional hearing.
INDIANAPOLIS -

An amended version of a bill designed to expand Indiana's civil rights laws is heading to the Senate floor. Senate Bill 344 would add civil rights protections for sexual orientation and active-duty military status. It includes several exemptions for religiously-affiliated groups, businesses and organizations. It also calls for a study committee on gender identity issues.

Senator Travis Holdman (R-19), who authored the bill along with Brant Hershman (R-7), says the measure is a "good-faith effort" to balance religious liberty with protections for gay and lesbian Hoosiers. "We all know this is a contentious issue, but I believe it's one the General Assembly must address and I look forward to continuing the discussion in the days ahead," said Holdman.

It cleared the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure 7-5 Wednesday in the Senate Chamber.

Opponents of the bill say it doesn't go far enough. Freedom Indiana is a statewide interest group pushing for protections for gay and transgender people. Campaign Manager Chris Paulsen says a "bad bill" was made worse. "As amended, it repeals the Indiana Religious Freedom Act but replaces it with substandard protections that omit transgender people entirely and provide religious carveouts that undermine the very purpose of the civil rights law," said Paulsen.

The Indiana Senate Republicans outlined features of the amended bill, including:

  • Adds sexual orientation, active duty military status and veteran status as protected classes in Indiana’s civil rights laws for employment, housing, and public accommodations.
  • Calls for a legislative study committee to examine the topic of discrimination based on gender identity.
  • Provides exemptions to the sexual orientation provisions for clergy, religious organizations, and small businesses of five or fewer employees engaged in marriage-related activities (same as current employer exemption in Indiana civil rights law).
  • Replaces Indiana’s RFRA law by codifying the existing “material burden” standard of judicial review established by the Indiana Supreme Court for claims involving Hoosiers’ state constitutional rights to freedom of speech, thought, conscience, religion, the press, and assembly. This would return Indiana to the same legal standard for these core constitutional rights that existed before RFRA was enacted last year.
  • Prohibits government entities from taking discriminatory action against clergy or religious organizations based on actions taken in accordance with their religious beliefs regarding marriage.
  • Mirrors federal law in allowing religious-affiliated state contractors to limit their hiring to people who follow the organization’s teachings.
  • Prohibits government entities from denying any license, including a marriage license, to a person based on their lawful activities related to marriage or sexual orientation.
  • Maintains all local civil rights ordinances as they existed on Dec. 31, 2015. Prohibits new local ordinances from differing with state law regarding what classes are covered and what penalties can be levied.

Senate Bill 100, a similar bill that was also debated by the committee, will not make it to the full Senate. Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-25), who is a member of the committee, introduced a failed amendment that would have taken a "four words and a comma" approach. He and other Democrats are pushing for "gender identity, sexual orientation" to be written into the state's Civil Rights law.

The legislation has a long way to go in the short session of the General Assembly, which is set to wrap up by March 14.

During testimony Wednesday night at the Statehouse, Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar pushed for language adding protecting sexual orientation and gender identity. He says it's about economic development.

A flower shop owner from Washington, Barronelle Stutzman, argued for additional safeguards in the law for religious liberty, saying laws in her state have negatively affected her based on her beliefs.

During testimony last night at the Statehouse, Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar pushed for language protecting sexual orientation and gender identity. He says it's about economic development.
A flower shop owner from Washington state, Barronelle Stutzman, argued for additional safeguards in the law for religious liberty, saying laws in her state have negatively affected her based on her beliefs.
  • Perspectives

    • How to Find a New Audience After Hitting a Marketing Plateau

      It may sound like a marketer’s dream scenario: efforts have proven to be so successful it appears a company has completely saturated their target audience. While it may be a good problem to have, it still may be a problem. Hitting a marketing plateau is an opportunity for companies in any industry to reevaluate, re-energize and come to the table with new ideas for better understanding existing customers and engaging new audiences.

    More

Events



  • Most Popular Stories

    • (image courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana)

      Crews Start Demolition of Carson's in Hammond

      The face of downtown retail in Hammond is changing once again with the demolition of Carson’s department store, the one-time the anchor of Woodmar Mall. Our partners at The Times of Northwest Indiana report excavating crews have started to demolish the last vestige of the shopping center which stood since the 1950s. 

    • Shaina Keck

      Pier 48 Manager Named

      FK Restaurant Group has named Shaina Keck sales and banquet manager for Pier 48 Fish House and Bar in downtown Indianapolis. She previously served in sales at Kilroy's Bar & Grill. Keck is a graduate of Indiana University Kelly School of Business with a bachelor of science degree in finance and accounting with a concentration in international studies.  
    • (image courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana)

      U.S. Steel Cuts Jobs, Low Price Imports Partially to Blame

      Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel has announced it will idle its tin mill operations in East Chicago, affecting nearly 300 workers, half of which will lose their jobs. Our partners at The Times of Northwest Indiana report U.S. Steel blames the layoffs on the Del Monte food company which announced its own mass layoffs. 

    • Lucy Schaich

      City of Bloomington Promotes Schaich

      The city of Bloomington has promoted Lucy Schaich to volunteer network coordinator, a program of the Community and Family Resources Department.  She served as assistant coordinator from 2000 until 2018, when she became the volunteer network’s interim director. Schaich is a graduate of Indiana University. 

    • Gas City Startup Helping Hemp Farmers

      Last month, it became legal for Hoosier farmers to grow hemp and a Gas City-based startup is being aggressive in being among the first to take advantage of market opportunities. Heartland Harvest Processing is helping farmers connect the new agricultural commodity to consumer products, including CBD. Founder and Chief Marketing Officer Chris Moorman says the first hemp harvest under the new law is expected to begin next month. In an interview with Business of Health...