March 30, 2015

Ballard, Indy Council: Repeal RFRA, Make LGBT Protected Class


Mayor Greg Ballard speaks out against RFRA law Monday March 30 at the City-County Building. - Eric Weddle / WFYI Public Media

Mayor Greg Ballard speaks out against RFRA law Monday March 30 at the City-County Building.

Eric Weddle / WFYI Public Media

Mayor Greg Ballard and the City-County Council say that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act threatens decades of effort by many to make Indianapolis a welcoming city for residents, visitors and business.

Monday the city -- in a stern, bipartisan voice -- called on Gov. Mike Pence to repeal the law and for the General Assembly to make sexual orientation and gender identity a protected class statewide.

Hundreds filled the council chambers to cheer on the passage of Proposal No. 120 -- that asked state lawmakers to not only repeal the law but protect local anti-dscrimination ordinances. 

The council passed the anti-RFRA resolution 24-4. Republicans Virginia Cain, Aaron Freeman, Jason Holliday, and Jack Sandlin voted against it.

Read more: Lawmakers Try to Quell Firestorm Around New Law

Read more: Democratic Legislative Leaders Say Trying To 'Fix' RFRA Not Enough

"The aim of this resolution is to send a crystal clear message across the nation and the world that Indianapolis is a welcoming and diverse city," said council vice president John Barth, a Democrat.

In a passionate press conference earlier Monday Ballard, a Republican, denounced discrimination and promised a welcoming city for all who will travel here for the weekend's NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.

Ballard, flanked by community and business leaders outside the City-County building, spoke directly to Gov. Mike Pence about the RFRA law that was signed last week.

“I call upon Gov. Pence and the Indiana legislature to fix this law," he said "Either repeal it or pass a law that protects all who work, live and visit Indiana and do so immediately. Indianapolis will not be defined by this.”

Ballard also issued an executive order that calls on state lawmakers to include sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class under state law. Indianapolis already has a policy that does just that. Ballard said the executive order requires any entity who receive city funds to agree to the ordinance.

Pence maintains the law’s intention is to create a judicial test to decide when the government is infringing on a person’s religious beliefs but opponents say the laws allows for the discrimination of LGBT people and other minorities.

Also Monday, nine CEOs wrote a letter to Pence and lawmakers asking them to change the law so it would not allow discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The CEOs include Eli Lilly, Indiana University Health, Anthem, Salesforce and Angie's List.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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