FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Organization Day at the statehouse drew a large crowd Tuesday from people looking to expand civil rights for the LGBT communities and others rallying for religious freedom.
“We just believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and that’s the way it ought to be,” Religious Freedom supporter Chris Allen said. “That’s the way God intended it.”
Senate Republicans announced plans Tuesday to extend civil rights protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill is intended to create a balance in regards to religious liberty, according to lawmakers. The bill would exempt religious organizations and some small businesses with fewer than four employees. It also requires transgender individuals must have established their gender identity at least one year before making a discrimination complaint.
“Well this is a shocking reversal, you know, and I think that they are trying to look good for economic reasons and this is one step forward that they are hoping to show that they are willing to work,” Fort Wayne Pride Director Nikki Fultz said.
The move comes after a rocky 2015 legislative session where religious freedom and LGBT rights were hotly debated, catching national attention. Fultz said it’s a step in the right direction, but she does have some issues with the Republicans’ plan.
“Anything forward going toward LGBT equality is a great thing,” Fultz said. “There are some things in the bill that concern me, such as not allowing governments to pass more strict non-discrimination policies.”
On the other side of the statehouse, House Speaker Brian Bosma said doing nothing next year is also an option.
“I’m concerned about doing exactly what’s right for Hoosiers,” Bosma said. “My philosophy has been let’s do what’s right, let the politics shake out for itself.”
Governor Pence said he is aware of the bill, but hasn’t seen it yet.
Democrats also crafted a bill for next session that would give LGBT Hoosiers civil rights protections across the board. The legislative session starts January fifth and will wrap up in March.
To see the complete bill click here.