- Associated Press - Monday, September 21, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - There is no room to compromise when it comes to enshrining civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people into Indiana law, the former CEO of Angie’s List said Monday.

“There are 19 other states that have done this without horrible things happening to them,” Bill Oesterle said at a news conference. “There is not room to compromise on civil rights.”

Last week, Oesterle joined a growing list of groups that are trying ratchet up pressure on lawmakers by forming Tech for Equality, a coalition of about 30 tech companies - including Angie’s List, Salesforce and Collina Ventures - that will push for legislation at both the municipal and state levels.

The companies say their ability to recruit top talent is hurt by the lack of LGBT rights in the state, a culture war that began in the spring over the religious objections law and is likely to resurface in the next legislative session. It isn’t clear what kinds of potential civil rights protections could be acceptable to Gov. Mike Pence and the Republican-dominated Legislature.

A major player in business and political circles, Oesterle announced in April he was stepping down as leader of Angie’s List to become more involved in state politics and help repair the damage from the religious objections law.

He said Monday that a proposal banning housing or job discrimination would not be acceptable to him unless it also included protection from being denied service at private businesses.

“If you are going to serve the public, you need to serve the public,” said Oesterle, a Republican. “We wouldn’t tolerate an exclusion for religion or race. It would be unthinkable to us.”

The governor is standing by the same statement that he has repeatedly issued, Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks said in an email.

“The Governor is listening to people on all sides of the issue in order to determine how best to move forward,” she said.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate have repeatedly avoided commenting on the issue and could not be reached Monday evening. The directors for two conservative groups who backed the religious objections law, the American Family Association of Indiana and Advance America, did not respond to requests for comment.

Tech for Equality is one of the latest groups to emerge following the uproar over Indiana’s religious objections law. Opponents said the law would sanction discrimination against the LGBT community, while social conservatives said it was needed to protect those with sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage, such as wedding planners, photographers and bakers who may object to working with gay couples.

Indiana has no statewide discrimination protections for gays and lesbians, though a growing list of cities, including Indianapolis, have passed local laws.

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