Reaction Swift on Failed Civil Rights Bill

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(Image of the Statehouse Interior Courtesy of The General Assembly.) (Image of the Statehouse Interior Courtesy of The General Assembly.)
INDIANAPOLIS -

Some influential Indiana business leaders are reacting to the Indiana Senate's inaction on a bill that would extend protections for sexual orientation. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar calls the result "frustrating and disappointing," and says he believes it leaves Indiana at a disadvantage in the attraction and retention of top talent. Bill Oesterle, former chief executive officer of Indianapolis-based Angie's List (Nasdaq: ANGI) who now co-chairs the group Tech For Equality, says it is "very clearly in our economic interest" to send a message that discrimination is not acceptable in Indiana.

"To say that we are disappointed that Senate Bill 344 was not given a vote on the floor of the Indiana State Senate is an understatement," said Oesterle. "More importantly, it is in our best interest to ensure that our laws reflect our values of fairness and Hoosier Hospitality. We hope the legislature will find a way to resolve this issue now."

The bill included several exemptions for certain parties with religious objections. Senate President Pro Tempore David Long (R-16) says there would not have been enough votes to pass the bill, so no action was taken Tuesday by the Senate. Wednesday is the final day for bills on their final reading that were originated in the Senate.

The bill received amendments and did not include protections for gender identity. It suggested the issue be sent to a study committee between the current session and the next.

Long and bill author Travis Holdman (R-19) say, if Indiana lawmakers do not address the civil rights issue, federal courts will eventually step in. The issue of civil rights protections in Indiana law for the LGBT issue has gained national attention since the signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last year.

A statewide interest group focusing on the economic impact of enhanced civil rights protections, Indiana Competes, issued a statement expressing disappointment in the legislature. Director Peter Hanscom called the bill flawed, but said "from the outset, companies large and small organized together to work with lawmakers to find a sensible solution that provides equal protections for LGBT Hoosiers and tells the true story about the negative effects of RFRA on our state's economy. Indiana's economic competitiveness and the Hoosier brand have potentially been compromised again. Failure to continue working toward a remedy casts doubt on the sincerity of the Senate's effort." He adds "the issue will not disappear."

Senate President Pro Tempore David Long says the ultimate decision on the matter may be out of lawmakers' hands.
Senator Travis Holdman (R-19) says the votes were not there to move the bill forward.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-25) says the debate is far from over.
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