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Indiana Senate pledges bill to balance LGBTI protections, ‘religious freedom’

Indiana Senate pledges bill to balance LGBTI protections, ‘religious freedom’

Indiana state Senate will hear the bill in January.

The Republican leader of the Indiana state Senate has pledged to introduce a ‘comprehensive’ bill that will balance LGBTI freedoms and ‘religious freedom.’

‘I can just tell you that there’ll be strong language in there for both civil rights and for religious freedom, and so we’ll just leave it at that,’ Senate President Pro Tempore David Long said on Monday (16 November).

‘We’re trying to do our best to get a balanced piece of legislation.’

Long refused to talk about the specifics of the proposal, other than that Senator Travis Holdman is drafting the bill, which will be heard in the 2016 legislative session beginning in January.

Holdman also declined to give details, although he told The Star he expected to file the bill Tuesday afternoon.

In March, the Senate passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which allowed businesses to turn away LGBTI customers on religious grounds. However, Governor Mike Pence was forced to ‘fix’ after a national backlash.

Democrats have the Indiana’s reputation could be restored by just adding ‘four words and a comma’ — ‘sexual orientation, gender identity’ – to state anti-discrimination laws.

But Long said that was an oversimplification.

‘Anyone who says that is shortchanging the discussion here,’ he said.

‘The freedom of religion in our United States Constitution and certainly in the Indiana Constitution is on the same level as freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of association.

‘It’s that important. We should not discount that as we discuss how do we deal with this issue of whether you expand protected class status to sexual orientation and gender identity.’

Several cities and counties in Indiana, including Indianapolis, have bylaws protecting LGBTI residents from discrimination.