Indiana businesses form group to promote LGBT protections

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Another business group has formed to lobby for extending Indiana’s civil rights protections to members of the LGBT communities.

The group calling itself Indiana Competes includes the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and will lobby the General Assembly to adopt protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations, The Indianapolis Star reported. It will focus on showing how the change could affect economic development efforts.

“It’s very important that we understand the ramifications – long-term ramifications – when we deal with restricting rights or not affording everybody equal rights that it does hamper our ability to attract talent,” said Mark Fisher, vice president of government relations and policy development for the Indianapolis Chamber.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce last week called for extending the civil rights law to bar discrimination against people based on their LGBT status.

The push for expanding the law has been growing since last spring, when the Legislature faced a backlash for passing the state’s religious objections law, which social conservatives said was needed to protect the rights of those who object to gay rights for religious reasons but which critics said was really an invitation to discriminate against the LGBT community.

After a national uproar, the law was amended to address widespread worries that it could sanction discrimination against gays and lesbians. Indiana’s current civil rights law bans discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, or ancestry.

In September, Bill Oesterle, the former CEO of the consumer review service Angie’s List, announced a new group called Tech for Equality that includes leaders of the state’s technology sector. Freedom Indiana, a coalition of advocates for LGBT communities, also has begun lobbying for the protections ahead of the 2016 legislative session.

Pence and key leaders in the GOP-controlled Legislature have avoided discussing the matter publicly even while having private conversations with prominent business leaders who support LGBT rights.

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