INDIANAPOLIS — The sponsor of the Indiana Senate's bill to extend anti-discrimination protections to lesbian, gay and bisexual people is pulling the proposal from consideration, dealing a serious blow to efforts to pass legislation this year.
Republican Sen. Travis Holman said Tuesday he was disappointed but realized there wasn't enough support for Senate Bill 344 to win approval.
The measure that cleared a Senate committee last week was criticized by Democrats and LGBT rights activists for not including transgender people. It also faced opposition from religious conservatives who believed it still required services for same-sex marriages even if they had religious objections.
Indiana faced a national backlash last year after the Legislature passed a religious objections law that critics said allowed discrimination against gay and lesbian people. The law was later revised.
Pro-business groups like the Indy Chamber and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce said they were disappointed that the bill would not get a hearing.
While acknowleding the bill wasn't "perfect," Indy Chamber president and CEO Michael Huber said in a statement that the expansion of statewide non-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity "remains squarely on the pro-business agenda." In a statement, chamber president and CEO Michael Huber said inaction on the issue "puts roadblocks in the way of advancement, a price our economy cannot afford to pay."
Freedom Indiana, a group advocating for including civil-rights protections for LGBT Hoosiers, also expressed frustration. Even a deeply flawed bill like SB 344 helped keep the issue before lawmakers, and the group said it was lobbying to include protections for transgender people.
"We've said from the outset that doing nothing was not an option. Today, lawmakers did nothing to help protect LGBT people in our state," the group said.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's office said he "respects" the decision to withdraw the bill.
His office issued a two-sentence statement Tuesday saying he appreciated the civility in which the issue was debated and that he looked forward to working with legislators on issues such as roads, schools and health care.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg says Pence provided no leadership on the issue and that Indiana's economy and reputation will continue to suffer.