A bill that would have provided civil rights protections to LGBT individuals in Indiana failed earlier this week after Republicans couldn’t come to a consensus to move forward with the measure. According to a story in the Indianapolis Star, the failure of the bill to advance represents a victory for religious conservatives in the Hoosier state, and a blow to businesses and gay rights activists. Republican Senate leader David Long of Fort Wayne, who was pushing the measure, said that he thinks eventual passage of gay rights legislation is inevitable.
According to the Star story, the effort to forge a bill that all could agree on failed over the issue of transgender rights, specifically the whether people could use bathrooms or school locker rooms based on their gender identity. There were also political concerns, as Governor Pence and many of those in the Senate are up for election in 2016.
Ultimately, though, the effort was doomed by the refusal on the part of each side to compromise.
“No matter what I do, no matter what I propose,” said bill author Travis Holdman, R-Markle, “I cannot move these walls that are on the right and the left hand, because nobody wants to give. Nobody wants to move.”
Long blamed the death of the gay rights debate on the unwillingness to budge by both LGBT advocates and religious conservatives.
“This effort was unfortunately hampered by well-organized extreme messaging from groups representing both sides of this discussion, many of them from out of state,” Long said. “Neither of those sides were truly seeking a solution.”
Religious conservatives had objected to any extension of civil rights to LGBT people, saying it would protect someone’s sexuality above another person’s religious beliefs.
LGBT advocates had called for unequivocal civil rights protections for gay and transgender Hoosiers, protesting carve-outs for religious groups.
The effort to pass Georgia’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015 failed in part because a similar effort in Indiana drew national attention after its legislature passed its version of a RFRA that did not contain an anti-discrimination provision. Salesforce.com and other businesses threatened to leave the state, and the NCAA expressed concerns about diversity at the Final Four basketball tournament which was held in Indianapolis shortly after the bill was signed. After the calls to boycott Indiana grew louder, Governor Mike Pence called on the legislature to include anti-discrimination provisions in its RFRA, which it ultimately did.
There are more than half a dozen bills that have been introduced in the Georgia legislature attempting to protect religious liberty, including two versions of a RFRA, Josh McKoon’s SB 129, which remains tabled after an anti-discrimination amendment was added, and this year’s version authored by Ed Setzler. At a Tuesday press conference, Dr. J. Robert White, the Executive Director of the Georgia Baptist Missions Board said his group will continue to press for a clean RFRA until one passes, no matter how long it takes.
Meanwhile, another bill, the Pastor Protection Act favored by House Speaker David Ralston gets its first hearing in a House Judiciary subcommittee this afternoon at 3 PM.