The Battle for Transgender Rights Begins in Indiana

Today marks the beginning of the 2016 State Senate session in Indiana. It will be the beginning of a session where three major transgender rights bills will be debated and possibly voted on.

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“INDIANA IS QUICKLY BECOMING THE LGBT BATTLEGROUND STATE. THIS IS THE FIRST OF MANY STATES AND CITIES WHERE WE WILL SEE LGBT RIGHTS COME TO THE FOREFRONT IN 2016.”

Transgender Bathroom Access Bill

Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville

The most popular of the three is the “Transgender Bathroom Access Bill” which is proposed by Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville. The bill would make it a Class A misdemeanor for a transgender person to enter a public restroom that does not conform to the gender they were assigned at birth. Violation of the proposed law would result in a $5,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

Four Words and a Comma Bill

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson

Next we have the “Four Words and a Comma Bill” proposed by Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. This proposal is to add the four words (along with a comma) “Gender identity, sexual orientation” to the state’s current anti-discrimination law. Though Lanane has not yet reached out to Republicans to garner support he has the backing of the business community and LGBT rights groups. The State Senator says he is open to compromise regarding the language of the proposal, though he is also skeptical of any alternative proposals.

LGBT Rights/Religious Exemptions Bill

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle

Finally we have the “LGBT Rights/Religious Exemptions Bill” proposed by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle. This bill is for LGBT protections but it is not as wide ranging as the Four Words and a Comma Bill. It includes significant exemptions for small businesses and religious institutions that object to working with gay and transgender people. Senate Republicans feel this is a good “first step” to bridging the gap between LBGT and religious rights.

The Indiana State Senate currently has 50 members with a split of 40 Republicans and 10 Democrats, The three proposed bills come on the heels of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law by Governor Mike Pence in March 2015. The bill which allows businesses to deny services to gay and transgender individuals for religious reasons caused a swell of backlash. Some states and cities pulled sponsored funding for travel to Indiana. Many CEO’s were outspoken against the law including Apple’s Tim Cook. The bill passed overwhelmingly by 40 votes to 10.

Indiana is quickly becoming the LGBT battleground state. This is the first of many states and cities where we will see LGBT rights come to the forefront in 2016.

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