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Senate Republicans Unveil GOP Anti-Discrimination Bill

Noah Coffey

Senate Republicans Tuesday unveiled the details of legislation they say strikes a balance between protecting the LGBT community from discrimination and ensuring Hoosiers’ religious freedom.  

The Senate GOP bill includes protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  It does so while exempting religious institutions – including churches, religious schools, and religious nonprofits.  The measure also, for the first time in state law, defines sexual orientation and gender identity.  Specifically, it says for a person to claim gender identity discrimination, they must prove their gender either through medical records or by showing they’ve lived as the gender they say they are for at least one year.  Senate Republican Leader David Long says that requirement is intended to provide consistency when enforcing the law.

“How do you deal with someone who says ‘I woke up today and I think I’m a different gender?" he asks. "That’s not likely to happen but it could happen.  And how do we allow people to deal with that issue effectively, reasonably and thoughtfully?”

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane says he’s concerned about the gap left open by the gender identity definition.

"Does that mean for the first year that you are transgender that it's free to discriminate against you?" he asks. "Okay, there's an issue."

The Senate GOP bill says businesses with three or fewer full time employees do not have to provide services or participate in any same sex marriage-related activities, including ceremonies, receptions, vow renewals and anniversary celebrations.  Long says that exemption is about acknowledging and accommodating people with deeply-held religious beliefs…and he says there’s a reason it’s limited to small businesses.

“A smaller business may not be able to have someone else step in to provide that service, but a larger business would," he says.

But Lanane says he’s concerned about creating exceptions: 

“Does this ultimately allow somebody to discriminate?  I mean, that’s going to be the bottom line and we’re going to take a look at this language real carefully.”

The General Assembly will begin debating the legislation in January.  

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