- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Indiana actually provides more anti-discrimination protection for gays than most other states with Religious Freedom Restoration Act measures, contrary to the narrative pushed by critics of Indiana’s newly signed law.

Nineteen states and the federal government had RFRA laws before Gov. Mike Pence signed the Indiana version last week, but some of those driving the national firestorm against the Indiana law insist that it presents a greater threat in part because Indiana lacks a statewide law banning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) persons.

In fact, Indiana law does prohibit discrimination in state employment based on sexual orientation and identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights group in Washington, D.C.

Indiana governors in 2004 and 2005 added those protections via executive orders, with former Gov. Mitch Daniels adding “sexual orientation” and “sexual identity” in 2005 to the list of protected classes in state employment.

Information from the HRC website shows that only four other RFRA states — Kansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Virginia — have laws roughly equivalent to Indiana’s banning public employment discrimination. Arizona’s law is slightly weaker, prohibiting discrimination in state employment based on sexual orientation but not identity.

Meanwhile, another 10 states with RFRA laws — Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas — have no statewide laws barring LGBT discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodations.

The Texas RFRA, however, “specifically exempts civil-rights protections from the scope of the law,” according to ThinkProgress.

Only four states — Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico and Rhode Island — have stronger laws barring anti-LGBT discrimination than does Indiana.

Mr. Pence has come under intense pressure to support legislation banning anti-gay discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations from those who say such a law will “fix” the Indiana RFRA.

A coalition of civil rights groups under the banner Freedom Indiana called Tuesday for the passage of the Fairness for All Hoosiers Act, while a Tuesday editorial in The Indianapolis Star, the state’s largest newspaper, called for lawmakers to “Fix This Now.”

“Gov. Mike Pence and the General Assembly need to enact a state law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” the editorial said. “Those protections and RFRA can co-exist. They do elsewhere.”

Mr. Pence said at a press conference Tuesday that he’s working with state legislators to amend the law to clarify that it does not allow discrimination.

“We will fix this, and we will move forward,” Mr. Pence said.

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