Indiana Governor Signs Measure Limiting Damage of RFRA, but LGBT Hoosiers Remain at Risk

by Stephen Peters

Fair-minded Hoosiers and business leaders helped limit the damage, but the fight for comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination protections continues

WASHINGTON - Facing tremendous economic damage and mounting public pressure from fair-minded Americans and business leaders, today Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed legislation limiting the damage of the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) but falling far short of providing a full solution. The measure fails to explicitly ensure that the RFRA won’t be used to undermine the full scope of Indiana existing non-discrimination laws, and does not add LGBT non-discrimination protections to the state’s civil rights laws.

In response, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, released a graphic explaining the new law and the risks for LGBT Hoosiers that remain.

In cities (including Indianapolis) which have LGBT non-discrimination protections on the books, the RFRA cannot be used as a defense to discrimination against LGBT people in:

  • Employment: A private, secular employer can no longer cite their personal religion as the reason that they fired or refused to hire an LGBT person.

  • Housing: A landlord can no longer cite their personal religion as the reason that they refused to rent to or evicted an LGBT person.

  • Public Accommodations: A restaurant owner can no longer cite their personal religion as the reason they refused service to an LGBT person

The “fix” does not address other critical areas such as:

  • Healthcare: A private pharmacist could still cite their personal religious beliefs as the reason for denying a legitimate prescription to an LGBT person seeking HIV medication, hormone therapy, or to a lesbian couple seeking fertility drugs.

  • Education: A parent could still sue an individual teacher for intervening when their child harasses another child that is perceived to be LGBT.

In cities without LGBT non-discrimination protections on the books, LGBT Hoosiers still face discrimination of all kinds. Based on the 2010 census, approximately 20% or 1/5 of Hoosiers live in a place with LGBT non-discrimination protections. Meaning approximately 80% of Hoosiers live in a place with no explicit protection from or recourse for LGBT discrimination under state or local law.

Major businesses – including Salesforce, Eli Lilly and Company, Alcoa, Cummins, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the NCAA, and more – played a lead role in negotiating the new measure that limits the damage of the new RFRA.

From the CEOs of some of the largest corporations in the world to small business owners in places like Evansville who declared they were "open for all," from four Indy PFLAG moms who gathered nearly 3,000 people on the steps of the Capitol last Saturday to the unprecedented full front page editorial from the Indy Star, to the nearly 80,000 emails sent to the Governor from people across the nation, the outcry of fair-minded Americans could not be ignored.

Yesterday, in response to a host of anti-LGBT bills pending or signed in to law in states around the country like the new law in Indiana, tech industry leaders signed - and continue to sign - an unprecedented joint statement calling for the addition of non-discrimination protections for LGBT people to state and federal civil rights laws. This growing list reflects an ever increasing united front of support for explicit LGBT non-discrimination protections.

Similarly, major corporations around the country have begun signing on to a pledge launched by HRC that says “Equality is Our Business” while condemning anti-LGBT bills pending around the country.

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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