INDIANAPOLIS (Nov. 22, 2015) - As Indiana lawmakers returned to work for Organization Day, Senate Republicans unveiled legislation that is meant to be seen as a compromise on one of the most controversial issues they’ll face next session.
The legislation, filed Tuesday as Senate Bill 100, would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, while exempting religious institutions and small businesses with fewer than four employees.
The outwardly public position for Senate Republicans comes as hundreds of Hoosiers on both sides of the issue rallied at the Statehouse.
“This bill is an attempt to balance civil rights and religious liberty,” said Senate President pro tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, at a late Tuesday news conference.
Still, the proposal is already drawing mixed reaction.
While there would be sexual orientation and gender identity protections for housing, employment and public accommodations- there would be numerous exemptions, including an exception for churches and religious universities, and for wedding services with less than four employees.
The measure would also replace any local ordinances dealing with civil rights- a number of which have just been passed in recent months.
“The state is basically taking charge and this would be the law of the land in state of Indiana,” said State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, the bill’s author.
There would be a $1,000 penalty for any frivolous complaints, and transgender people would have to live as their preferred gender for one year or get a medical opinion before filing a complaint.
And schools and businesses would be allowed to set their own rules on dress codes and bathroom policies.
An official with Lambda Legal told the IndyStar the bill a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ and said it would serve as ‘a road map for discrimination against LGBT people’ instead of protecting them.
Senate Democrats are instead calling for full across the board protections without exception. Senate minority leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, announced his plans to file Senate Bill 2, which he called a simple, cleaner solution.
“The citizens of this state and other states and business inside and outside Indiana are watching to see what we do and they want to know will there be across the board protection and no license to discriminate,” said Lanane.
In the video above, House minority leader Scott Pelath discusses the debate over LGBT rights and other issues facing the legislature, including the funding of Indiana's roads and bridges.