Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Punts On LGBT Non-Discrimination Protections in State of the State Address

by Stephen Peters

WASHINGTON – Tonight, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, criticized Governor Mike Pence for his failure to clearly call for fully inclusive non-discrimination protections for all LGBT Hoosiers and visitors in his State of the State address. Instead, he chose to follow a non-committal path similar to his lack of leadership on the issue last legislative session.

“To no one’s surprise, yet again Governor Mike Pence has failed Indiana and all Hoosiers,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “The state is in urgent need of leadership by the Governor to undo the damage from last year’s debacle, and Pence is clearly unwilling or incapable of doing the job. While on one hand he says he believes no one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are or who they love, he completely failed to call for fully inclusive LGBT non-discrimination protections. Not only is passing these crucial non-discrimination protections a key to moving the state forward, it’s what LGBT Hoosiers and their families deserve. The time to act is now.”

Yesterday, HRC called on Pence to use his address as an opportunity to join the 70 percent of Hoosiers who support vitally important LGBT non-discrimination protections.

Last year, Pence inflicted a tremendous amount of damage to the state’s reputation and business climate when he signed legislation allowing individuals to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people and other minorities. Facing economic damage and mounting public pressure from fair-minded Americans and business leaders across the country, he then signed legislation that limited the damage of the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), but fell far short of providing a full solution. The measure failed to explicitly ensure that the new law wouldn’t be used to undermine the full scope of Indiana existing non-discrimination laws, and did not add LGBT non-discrimination protections to the state’s civil rights laws.

To further compound the problem, with Indiana’s legislative session for 2016 just beginning, at least six anti-LGBT bills have already been introduced. Senate Bill 35, introduced by Republican Senator Jim Tomes, would criminalize transgender people for using restrooms or locker rooms of their gender identity. Another proposal filed by Republican Senators Michael Young, Phil Boots, and Jim Banks – Senate Bill 66 – would astoundingly replace the current RFRA with a “super-RFRA.” Proposed as a state constitutional amendment, it would strip away the exemption for non-discrimination protections that Pence previously signed into law trying to limit the damage of the state’s current RFRA.

Democratic Senator minority leader Timothy Lanane has also introduced legislation – Senate Bill 2 – that would amend the state’s existing non-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity, among other categories. Republican Senator Ron Alting has also introduced similar legislation – Senate Bill 170 – that would update the state’s non-discrimination laws to include LGBT people.

In addition to the overwhelming majority of fair-minded Hoosiers, businesses across the state have united to push for fully inclusive LGBT non-discrimination protections, and the editorial board of the Indianapolis Star has repeatedly called for these fundamental protections.

HRC is a founding member of Freedom Indiana – the statewide grassroots organization fighting to update existing Indiana laws against discrimination to include LGBT Hoosiers.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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