A full court press was applied today at the Indiana Statehouse in an attempt to lay-to-rest the rift over RFRA.
Some of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s enemies today became allies, as legislation the LGBT community saw as threatening suddenly promised to offer unprecedented protection from discrimination.
“Everybody up here and the governor and every member of our state legislature loves this state, but love is not enough. Public policy matters and words matter,” said former Indianapolis Mayor and current Eli Lilly Executive Bart Peterson. “For the first time ever the words ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ appear in an Indiana statute, or they will after this law is passed, in the context of non-discrimination.”
A Statehouse news conference called to announce the compromise included legislative leaders, business leaders, and groups representing the LGBT community.
The proposed fix to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has two components: both short term and long term.
In the short term, lawmakers in both houses have voted to amend RFRA so it clearly and specifically can’t be used to discriminate against the LGBT community.
In the long term, legislative leaders fully expect to debate the idea of amending the state’s civil rights statute to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“The LGBT community is not going away. We're not going to let any of these people off the hot seat,” said Kathy Sarris with Indiana Equality. “We struck a compromise. They’re going to be hearing from us again.”
Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore David Long had this to say about a possible amendment to the civil rights act: “This is a level of discussion and scrutiny on the issue that hasn’t occurred before in Indiana as it hasn’t happened in 29 other states and the federal government also doesn’t have the protected class status. We’re talking about it now and I think that’s a good thing, a healthy thing, and will lead to a very robust discussion, I’m sure, next year.”
The RFRA fix passed the Indiana House of Representatives this afternoon by a vote of 66 to 30. State Senators followed suit with a 34 to 16 endorsement.
Rules were suspended to expedite the process due to the perceived economic emergency.
“With all due respect to anyone who says let’s just slow down, let’s take our time, why do we need to do this? In your heart of hearts you know why we're doing this, because there's been economic damage to our state. I think unfairly, but it's real and we have to do something about it,” President Pro Tempore David Long said during a conference committee hearing on the fix.
“I had a manufacturer from Marshall County call me earlier this week distraught that he had just lost his largest customer who said that they no longer were going to purchase product from them because they didn't want to buy anything from the state of Indiana,” testified Kevin Brinegar with the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce.
USA Today recently voted Indianapolis the number one convention city in the U.S.
The convention, tourism, entertainment and hospitality industries there employ 100,000 people.
“I talked to some of the industry professionals just to get the facts and figures so I didn't just pull them out of thin air,” said Ind. Rep. Terri Austin, (D) Anderson. Convention and meetings, the net present value, the loss to the state is $1.5 billion, meetings and conventions.”