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2016 To Offer Round Three Of LGBTQ Rights Fight At The Statehouse

Gretchen Frazee
Indiana Public Broadcasting

Legislators convene next Tuesday for the ceremonial opening of what shapes up as a third straight legislative session dogged by issues surrounding gay marriage.

Republican leaders have been mum about whether they'll hear a civil rights bill, or what form it might take if they do. But the Indiana Chamber has thrown its weight behind such a bill, calling it a "necessary action" to counteract negative perceptions from this year's quickly amended Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

That debate had been spurred by 2014's battle over a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Legislators ended up voting for what amounted to a two-year delay in amending the Constitution, which became a moot point weeks later when a federal court ruled Indiana's ban unconstitutional.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) says he'll introduce legislation to extend civil rights protections to gays and lesbians.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) predicts it'll pass the House if it reaches the floor. He maintains many legislators who voted for RFRA felt misled about what that law would do.

“There are enough votes on the House floor to pass full civil rights protections if it’s brought to a vote; it simply has to be allowed,” Pelath says. “People might have to swallow the frustration of it being bipartisan.”

And Pelath says it’d be good politics for Republican Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) to bring a civil rights bill to a vote.

“If he has interests in running for governor one day, which he seems to have expressed, then he wants this behind him and not dogging him through the next four years,” Pelath says.

But even Pelath is less emphatic about the bill's prospects in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 40-10 majority. He calls passage there "plausible."

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