There will be no civil rights for Indiana’s LGBT community this year.
Sen. Travis Holdman, (R-Markle), rescinded Senate Bill 344 when called for second reading. SB 344 would have provided limited civil rights for gays, lesbians and bisexual Hoosiers with various exceptions and provisions for residents wishing to exercise their “religious freedom.”
Holdman spoke on the Senate floor about his struggle with trying to find a suitable compromise for those on both sides of the issue.
“After several months of honestly good faith discussion, it is evident that SB 344 does not have the support to move forward,” said Holdman. “I believed the balanced approach in the bill was a step forward for our state. It just doesn’t appear that the time is right for this legislation. And I regret that deeply.”
The proposed legislation was met with vigorous resistance from the LGBT community because of its exclusion of transgender persons from protection. Before Holdman pulled the bill form consideration, Republican and Democrat senators were prepared to amend the bill to include gender identity as a protected class. Lobby groups supportive of LGBT civil rights campaigned to include transgender persons along with the elimination of the religious freedom exemptions. But all wanted to conversation to continue with the hopes of gaining civil rights protections and ultimately restoring Indiana’s image that was tainted and lost after last year’s RFRA debacle.
Senate Pro Temp David Long, (R-Fort Wayne), also expressed his disappointment in reaching the end of the discussion without coming to a conclusion. But Long pointed to those lobbying groups for ultimately killing the measure by oversimplifying a complex issue with their push for “four words and a comma.”
“My way or the highway doesn’t work in the legislative process and as a result nothing is working today,” said Long.
He also warned that the issue will not go away and expressed his fear that a conclusion will be sought and reached in the judicial branch of government rather than the legislative branch.
“I believe religious freedom and liberty will be the loser on this issue if the courts decide the issue,” said Long.
Minority leader Tim Lanane commented on the Senate floor expressing his disappointment as well, but reiterated that civil rights shouldn’t be as complicated as the issue was being made out to be.
“I can’t pretend that I am disappointed by our actions today. It’s not that complicated. We’ve made it more complicated than it should be,” said Lanane. “I think this bill was defeated by unfounded fear. We should protect all persons L, G, B and T.”
With SB 344 off the table in the Senate, the passage of civil rights for the LGBT community is essentially dead for this legislative session. Other senate bills on the issue (SB 2 and SB 100) never made it out of committee and there are no reciprocal bills in the House. The issue could be revisited as an amendment to an existing active bill.