April 2, 2015

Indiana LGBT Leaders Say RFRA Changes Are Step In Right Direction

Thousands rallied at the Statehouse March 28 to protest the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. - Michelle Johnson

Thousands rallied at the Statehouse March 28 to protest the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Michelle Johnson

Leaders from Indiana’s LGBT community say legislative language aimed at fixing the damage caused by controversy surrounding the state’s religious freedom law is an important step toward a larger conversation about gay rights. The legislative fix comes after concerns the measure known as RFRA would be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

The follow-up bill to RFRA says the controversial law can’t be used to deny services, goods, housing or employment to anyone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Chris Douglas, founder of Indy Rainbow Chamber of Commerce and other gay rights organizations, says the legislative fix is an important first for Indiana law.

“[The follow-up bill] establishes sexual orientation and gender identity in the context of recognizing and protecting our rights as equal citizens,” Douglas said.

The follow up bill only applies to RFRA, meaning in all but 12 municipalities with human rights ordinances, discrimination against the LGBT community isn’t barred by state law. But Kathy Sarris, former president of Indiana Equality, says that day is coming.

“We’re not going to let any of these people off the hot seat," Sarris said. "We’ve struck a compromise; they’re going to be hearing from us again.”

In a statement, Freedom Indiana campaign manager Katie Blair, whose organization has led the fight against RFRA, says the legislative fix lessens the law’s harm, but that Indiana has not reached the day when LGBT Hoosiers can live their lives free from discrimination.

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