Lambda Legal Reacts to Indiana Gov. Pence’s State of the State Address

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January 12, 2016
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Christopher Clark

In the final moments of his State of the State speech last night, and after making clear that he had already discussed his priorities, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence addressed the issue of basic civil rights protections for LGBT Hoosiers. It was disheartening to hear the Governor suggest that extending nondiscrimination protections to LGBT Hoosiers would possibly interfere with the Indiana Constitution’s guarantee that all Hoosiers may enjoy the freedom to practice their respective faiths.

The idea that extending basic nondiscrimination protections to LGBT Hoosiers would violate the freedom to practice one’s religion is nonsense. Nothing in the Indiana Constitution prevents the state legislature from protecting LGBT Hoosiers from the real harms caused by discrimination. As a matter of fact, the Constitution stands with LGBT Hoosiers who seek to live their lives without fear of discrimination.

The freedom we all enjoy to practice our respective faiths does not include the right to impose our beliefs on others. We are concerned about the Governor's implied threat to veto legislation that does not conform to his mistaken view of the Constitution. We urge the Indiana legislature to enact comprehensive non-discrimination protections and to not leave our community unprotected in the name of "compromise."

In November, Indiana Senate Bill 100 was presented as a bill to add sexual orientation and gender identity protections to Indiana law, which LGBT Hoosiers urgently need. Unfortunately, the bill that was introduced provides little meaningful protection from discrimination for transgender people and includes damaging carve-outs and exemptions targeting all LGBT people in Indiana. In the past two weeks, Indiana legislators have introduced a blizzard of bills which, they contend, seek to address both the need for LGBT protections in the state, but also seeking to “balance” the need for religious freedom. All of those bills, much like Senate Bill 100, fail miserably to address the very real issues facing LGBT Hoosiers today.

Let’s remember the national fury unleashed on Indiana last spring, when the legislature passed, and Gov. Pence signed, a religious refusal law that allowed businesses and service providers to discriminate against LGBT people. It is clear from tonight’s address that Gov. Pence forgot all about it and he has once again, started to back himself into that same corner. It is important for Gov. Pence to remember that the state of Indiana, and the entire country, is watching.

Six Key Problems with SB 100

 

Our Open Letter to Governor Pence et al.