- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

GOSHEN, Ind. (AP) - A mayor of a northern Indiana city who recently withdrew his proposal to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination ordinance said Thursday he’ll issue an executive order to encode those protections in the city’s hiring policy.

Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman’s order will add protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and also require mutual voluntary mediation for cases of potential discrimination.

Kauffman and city council members in the city that’s about 25 miles southeast of South Bend agreed earlier this month not to take a vote on the LGBT ordinance. Their move followed opposition campaigns that a prominent Indiana conservative activist has led in several communities.

The debate over such protections was initially sparked by a national uproar that started when Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed the state’s religious objections law, which critics maintained was anti-gay. The GOP-dominated Legislature later amended the law to bar businesses from using it as a legal defense to refuse to provide services, goods, facilities or accommodations on religious grounds.

Kauffman is a four-term Democrat who isn’t seeking re-election.

“Anything I say or do at this point will be considered political, especially in this election year,” he said in a statement. “However, we need to all work hard at hearing one another. Democrats, Republicans, Independents and non-voters need to work for the common good.”

Gay rights supporters across Indiana have pushed for more cities to join Indianapolis, South Bend and Evansville in passing local ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity ahead of next year’s legislative session. Other communities, including Hammond, Terre Haute and Columbus, have adopted or taken up similar ordinances in recent months.

Earlier this month, the mayor of Elkhart withdrew proposed protections following opposition campaigns led by Eric Miller, executive director of Indianapolis-based Advance America and a top supporter of Indiana’s religious objections law.

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