Indiana lawmakers to discuss ongoing LGBT rights debate

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indiana state lawmakers plan to convene to discuss what recommendations should be made for the upcoming legislative session regarding rights for LGBT residents.

The meeting Aug. 30 comes after efforts failed last legislative session when the state drew widespread opposition of a religious objections law that critics said amounted to an invitation to discriminate against gay people, the Indianapolis Star reported.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, said a compromise appears unlikely as neither LGBT advocates nor religious conservatives have budged from their stances.

“I’m hopeful but not too optimistic that we’ll get some resolution to this coming out of the committee hearing,” said Holdman, the panel’s co-chair and author of last session’s civil rights bill.

The Indy Chamber and advocacy group Freedom Indiana say they’re focusing on familiarizing people with the discrimination that gay and transgender residents can encounter as well as helping cities develop ordinances to ban discrimination against LGBT people.

“We fully recognize this might be a longer-term play, and we need to really focus on educating the legislature and the general public on these issues,” said Mark Fisher, an Indy Chamber lobbyist.

Last session, the Indiana Senate stopped a debate over extending civil rights protections to gay Hoosiers in housing, employment and public accommodations, with certain religious exemptions. Protections for transgender people weren’t included.

The debate was led by Republicans after the sharp backlash over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which appeared to some as an allowance for religious business owners to discriminate against LGBT people.

“If we could have an honest discussion and a real vote doing something positive, I, for one, would be interested in that,” said Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, who is also on the panel. “But I’m not interested in teeing up a controversy that gets us nowhere and causes more damage to the state. That’s the dilemma.”

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