The Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Kevin Brinegar, is the latest high-profile business advocate to speak out against Governor Mike Pence’s decision to prioritize religious liberties over anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people.
Last year, Pence made international headlines when he signed into law the Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This allowed business owners to refuse services to people if they felt it conflicted with their faith.
The legislation was later amended to include some non-discrimination protections for LGBTI people – but not enough to satisfy equality advocates.
Lawmakers have been exploring legislation that further expands the state’s legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in housing, employment and other public accommodations, and Pence, who is gearing up for re-election, indicated that he would make mention of the issue in his State of the Senate speech last week.
However, to the dismay of many in the business community and LGBT campaigners, Pence merely use the speech to reaffirm his Conservative credentials, saying, ‘I will not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or that interferes with the constitutional rights of our citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service or work.
‘No one should ever fear persecution because of their deeply held religious beliefs.’
In an interview with Associated Press, Brinegar said, ‘We were hoping for a positive and definitive statement supporting expanded protections for sexual preference and gender identity. We didn’t hear that.’
‘We don’t take lightly the idea of giving people more reason to sue businesses, but we think it’s the 21st Century and the time has come to provide these protections. We need to close the book on the … issue, which some would say was a debacle.’
Last month we reported on how the NCAA was the latest company to join Indiana Competes – a business-led campaign that has voiced for support for extending LGBT protections. Other companies that have joined include AT&T, Cummins, Salesforce, Roche, Eli Lilly and Dow.
Several pieces of legislation go before the Indiana Senate this year to further extend LGBT protections, but one will grant exemptions to religious organizations and small businesses, while another will not include transgender people – in an effort to prevent trans people using the public restrooms of their choice.