By Michael Nam
Despite the massive backlash the state of Indiana and Gov. Mike Pence received following the passage of its “religious freedom” law that would further protect businesses that discriminate against LGBT people, the legislators in Indiana decided not to investigate the issue of anti-LGBT discrimination in its state over the summer.
The Legislative Council, a group of legislators from both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly, decided on topics for summer study committees prior to the 2016 legislative session, but passed on studying the addition of sexual orientation to civil rights protections in the state, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Though Gov. Pence and state GOP lawmakers insisted that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act would in no way enable discrimination, it was very much clear that without statewide civil rights protections in place, it very well could be used to disenfranchise LGBT citizens.
Indiana’s reputation suffered heavily in the wake of the RFRA’s passage, especially with businesses that took very public stands against the legislation. Local corporations Eli Lilly and Company,Anthem (formerly WellPoint),andCummins,Nos. 24, 23 and 21, respectively, onThe DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversitylist, all spoke out against the original RFRA measure, and the Indianapolis Star notes there is more pro-LGBT support than the GOP-led legislature may believe.
Currently there are no statewide civil right protections for LGBT people something that Democrats and many business-minded Republicans believe is necessary to fully restore the state’s reputation as a welcoming place.
Yet, even with such support, the climate toward LGBT people in Indiana is hostile in many areas. The majority of LGBT-identifying students suffer from bullying, and school officials rarely aid students who report assault and harassment, according to the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
56% of students who were harassed or assaulted in school never reported it to school staff, and 53% never told a family member about the incident. Among students who did report incidents to school authorities, only 29% said that reporting resulted in effective intervention by staff.
Indiana also remains one of 29 states that do not have any protections against employment discrimination for sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Indianapolis Star quotes that the Republicans in the legislature don’t appear to be concerned by the lack of an official study on the lack of protections for LGBT people.
Senate President ProTemDavid Long, R-Fort Wayne, said that doesn’t mean the issue won’t be discussed, it just won’t happen in a public committee. Instead, the debate will “go on quietly through the summer,” he said.
While Long would like to “quietly” debate the issue, Indiana native, Beth A. Brooke-Marciniak of EY (No. 4 on the DiversityInc Top 50) made it clear after the original RFRA controversy that the time to fix Indiana’s discrimination policies is now.
“Indiana has the chance to really lead here most Americans are not fully aware that in 29 states people can still be fired for being gay,” Brooke-Marciniak wrote. “But with national attention firmly fixed on Indiana, this is the time to make it clear that discrimination cannot ever be legal in the US.”