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Lawsuit Challenges RFRA "Fix", Civil Rights Ordinances

Brandon Smith

Two groups among the state’s most outspoken opponents of LGBTQ civil rights laws are challenging a law enacted by the state legislature, as well as ordinances adopted by the cities of Carmel and Indianapolis.

The Indiana Family Institute and the American Family Association of Indiana on Thursday filed a lawsuit that claims, among other things, the state and local laws violate the groups’ religious liberties.

The suit contends the legislature’s so-called “fix” enacted to quell the public backlash that followed adoption of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act fails to accommodate the two groups.

The “fix” says businesses can’t refuse service to people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, with exceptions for churches, their schools and religious nonprofits.

The Indiana Family Institute and the American Family Association of Indiana argue they don’t fall into those categories, therefore the “fix” violates their constitutional right to free exercise of religion, freedom of speech and equal protection.

The lawsuit filed in Hamilton County also challenges human rights ordinances adopted in Indianapolis and Carmel.

The ordinances prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and other factors, while creating exceptions for churches, the schools and nonprofit religious organizations.

The lawsuit claims the ordinances are vague and violate the groups’ religious liberties.

Freedom Indiana, an LGBT rights organization, says the lawsuit is a “distraction” that will ensure the state’s reputation continues to suffer.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.
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