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INDIANAPOLIS – Freedom Indiana, the statewide grassroots organization fighting to update existing Indiana laws against discrimination to include gay and transgender Hoosiers, issued the following statement concerning Senate Bill 344, a new proposal being offered today as an alternative to Senate Bill 100, which was originally introduced on Organization Day. Both pieces of legislation allegedly aim to protect LGBT people in Indiana.
“This bill is a non-starter that offers zero protections for transgender people in Indiana.
“Both SB344 and SB100 represent complicated attempts to cure a problem that requires a very simple solution. Gay and transgender people should not be subjected to legal discrimination in our state. The civil rights law should be updated to reflect that commitment and make it clear that we are an open, welcoming place to live, work and play. The more lawmakers try to dance around the need for real, clear LGBT protections, the more it looks like they want a way to maintain the status quo: a state where you can be fired, denied housing or turned away from public places because of who you are or whom you love.”
The AP reports Gov. Mike Pence hinted he may finally reveal his thoughts on the matter during next week’s State of the State speech. That would come after months of him saying he was “studying” the issue.
“I think it’s one of the best opportunities I have as governor to speak directly to the people of Indiana on a broad range of issues, and we’ll likely take advantage of that,” Pence told reporters following an annual faith rally in the Statehouse where he publicly prayed for his administration.
Pence taking a position could sway some rank-and-file lawmakers because it “sets the tone one direction or the other,” House Speaker Brian Bosma said. But he said Pence “is not the boss of them, and everyone has their own opinions.”
The subject of LGBT civil rights has proven challenging for GOP lawmakers ever since controversy erupted last spring over Indiana’s religious objections law, which critics said sanctioned discrimination. The law was changed, but the activists and the state’s business establishment have since pushed for them to go further. Senate Republicans have proposed an LGBT civil rights bill with a long list of religious exemptions. But the future of the measure is far from certain and has not been scheduled for a committee hearing, though GOP Senate leader David Long said he expects to do so later this month.
“Where it goes, as we said before, is anybody’s guess,” said Long. “We’re just simply saying, ‘Vote your conscience.'”