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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Civil Rights Legislation Advances

A Senate committee Wednesday approved a bill that aims to balance protections for gay, lesbian and bisexual Hoosiers and people of faith.

The proposed bill would codify protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but not gender identity.  It would not apply to small businesses, religious organizations, adoption agencies, and non-profits that do religious work.

Business owners testified that even with exemptions, the law would threaten their beliefs.

“You’ll be sending a message to the citizens of Indiana that share my beliefs about marriage that they will not be tolerated.  They will be threatened, dragged into court, sued and lose their business," says Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington state florist who was sued after she refused to provide flowers for a gay wedding.

Although the bill does not provide protections for people based on gender identity, it does create a summer study committee to consider gender identity issues.

“The bills, as they are written right now, are shameful and, frankly, cowardly.  They placate a few people who refuse to understand that we live in a pluralistic society," says Rhiannon Carlson, a transgender Hoosier veteran.

Some, such as Indiana Chamber of Commerce CEO Kevin Brinegar, say the bill isn’t perfect but a good first step in addressing LGBT rights.

The committee approved the bill seven to five, with all four Democrats and one Republican voting against it.

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