By Jay Siskin, Amanda Creech and Shayla Jones
The first LGBT civil rights bill to make progress in the legislature this year is facing a new hurdle.
“I have yet to talk to someone who thinks the bill is a good idea,” House Speaker Brian Bosma
, R-Indianapolis, said. “It is hard to balance freedom of conscience and discrimination issues.”
Bosma said his caucus plans to have a firm discussion over the bill and then decide if the bill will proceed, instead of leaving the decision up to a committee chairman to decide if it gets a hearing.
“The one thing we have decided on this is that we are going to have a firm caucus about it,” Bosma said. “If it makes it out of the Senate, then I’m sure it’ll be a topic of discussion over here. We are going to have a caucus decide on if the bill will proceed.”
Senate Bill 344 would offer protections to gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, but does not extend rights to transgender people. Instead, the bill calls for a legislative study committee on transgender issues.
Despite negative feedback from both religious freedom supporters and LGBT supporters, Sen. President Pro-Tempore David Long
, R-Fort Wayne remains optimistic.
“Senate Bill 344 is a major step forward and an amazing proposal for change in Indiana,” said Long. “It fixes the issue of balance between strong religious freedom protections and civil rights protections for the LGB community and considering where we were a few years ago this is a big step in the right direction for Indiana.”
Long also said that if individual legislators wish to propose amendments to the bill, then they will be able to, but they must take it seriously.
“I think we will allow amendments, but I’ve cautioned them to make constructive ones that will move the discussion forward,” Long said.
The deadline for SB 344
to clear the Senate and move to the House is Wednesday.