By Veronica Carter
The new Indiana legislative session kicks off with another debate about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, and the group Freedom Indiana says its task is to convince policymakers that protecting all segments of society is what people want.
The Hoosier State got a lot of flak in 2015 for a religious-freedom law signed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence that allowed business owners to refuse to serve people for religious reasons. According to LGBT supporters, what it allowed was discrimination, so they put pressure on Indiana until the law was changed.
Despite that public outcry, said Chris Paulsen, Freedom Indiana campaign director, getting a law passed that protects gays and lesbians won't be easy.
"Everyday Hoosiers think that it's something that we should pass this session," she said. "We just want to make sure that the lawmakers are aware of that, and I'm sure they are. They see the same polls we do and, poll after poll, the numbers are going up."
Senate Bill 100 will be debated during the upcoming session. Paulsen said the legislation is a good start but has a lot of flaws and, in her view, actually would set the clock back. She said many aren't aware that workers who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender have no protections on the job, and legally can be discriminated against in Indiana.
"The bill as it was introduced would actually make a second-class citizen out of LGBT Hoosiers, and I don't think that was the intent," she said. "That's what we need to work on - just cleaning up that language so it actually gives protections to LGBT Hoosiers and doesn't take them away. "
Paulsen said she sees a day when this won't even be discussed. She said full civil protections eventually will be the standard for everyone no matter their sexual preference, but added that right now it's an uphill battle in Indiana.
As the legislature prepares to begin Jan. 5, an interfaith prayer vigil for non-discrimination will be held Jan.3 at 3 p.m. at North United Methodist Church in Indianapolis. The event, sponsored by Freedom Indiana, Reconciling Ministries Network of Indiana and the Interfaith Coalition on Nondiscrimination, will feature music from the Indianapolis Men's Chorus, words from a variety faith leaders and a candle lighting.