Lambda Legal Calls for "All Hands on Deck” as Indiana SB 344 Advances

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January 27, 2016

Tonight the Indiana Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee advanced Senate Bill 344; it will now go to the Senate floor for a vote. Lambda Legal is calling on Indiana. LGBT people, allies, business leaders, athletes and advocates to re-engage in the fight against SB344, a bill that will damage LGBT Hoosiers.

Camilla Taylor, Counsel in the Midwest Regional Office of Lambda Legal, said:

Senate Bill 344 provides such a broad license to discriminate based on religion that it is nothing short of a Super RFRA. This bill also does not even pretend to protect transgender Hoosiers, excluding them entirely, which is completely unacceptable. The sheep’s clothing barely covers the wolf. Like last spring, we need all hands on deck. As written, SB 344 is designed to hurt LGBT people in Indiana. Anyone who supports this bill doesn’t have the best interests of the LGBT community in mind.

Allowing this bill to take even one step forward is an appalling mistake and a betrayal of all Hoosiers. Legalizing discrimination robs Indiana of business and opportunity, and worsens the state’s already muddied reputation. We are just starting to understand the extent of the damage caused by last year’s RFRA, which according to media reports cost the City of Indianapolis an estimated $60M in lost opportunities. It is clear that Indiana hasn’t bounced back from last year’s fight--far from it. The Governor can claim that Indiana is a welcoming state, but businesses clearly know better because they are choosing to set up shop elsewhere.

Senate Bill 344 extends very limited civil rights to lesbian and gay people in employment, housing and public accommodations but the bill also includes broad religious exemptions that give businesses and publicly funded social service agencies legal permission to discriminate against LGBT people in Indiana. Furthermore, SB 344 completely excludes any protection for people who are transgender.

The Senate Committee rejected an amendment proposed by Senator Lanane that would have eliminated these damaging religious exemptions and would have provided protection from discrimination to transgender people. Among the amendments accepted to SB 344 was an amendment to allow anti-abortion organizations to exclude lesbian and gay people.

Another would allow nonprofit organizations, with no affiliation to a church or faith, to discriminate if they offer religious-centered programs, even if they receive state-funding.

The last amendment repeals both the RFRA passed last year, and the "fix," which prevented the RFRA from being used as a defense to discrimination claims, and replaced it with a standard favoring religious defenses to discrimination claims.

Key Issues with Senate Bills 100, 344 and 66.

Read the press release.