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Reporter's Notebook: Testimony From The LGBT Rights Hearing

[photo 1]

The Rules and Legislative Procedure Committee heard nearly five hours of testimony concerning two proposed bills establishing civil rights protections for LGBT Hoosiers.

SB100 would have provided protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, but it was killed in the committee and did not receive a vote.

SB344 provides protections only based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity. It also provides exemptions for small businesses, religious organizations, adoption agencies, and non-profits that do religious work. It advanced out of the committee with a vote of 7-5.

People testified on both sides of the issue, and no one was supportive of passing the entire bill without adding amendments.

Against SB344: Not Enough Religious Exemptions

Melissa Klein, a baker from Oregon, shared her story about refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. Her bakery was sued, and in the fallout of the lawsuit they received death threats and lost their business.

[photo 3]

“Not only did we face the full force of the law, but our property was vandalized and we received death threats. We have five children, and people have said horrible things to them. Our personal bank accounts were wiped out and we had to close down Sweet Cakes. We lost our dream business.”

Baronelle Stutzman is a florist from Washington State. After refusing to serve a same-sex wedding, she was sued and will have to pay up to $1 million in attorney fees.

[photo 2]

“If you vote for these bills, 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 threatened, dragged into court, sued, and lose their business.”

Against SB344: Too Many Religious Exemptions, Not Enough Protections

Transgender people are left out of one proposed bill altogether, and misunderstood and carved up in the other.

Rhiannon Carlson, a transgender woman and veteran, said that the suicide rate among transgender children is ten times higher than the national average.

“It is with utmost irony that during this legislative session, two groups that I belong to are being considered to be added to Indiana’s civil rights code: veterans and transgender Hoosiers,” Carlson said. “Yet, veterans are absent from the religious exemption, while transgender people are left out of one proposed bill altogether and misunderstood and carved up in the other.”

Korvin Bothwell is a transgender business owner in Indianapolis.

[photo 4]

“I don’t come from Mars, I come from Carmel,” he said. “It would be wildly inappropriate for anyone to tell someone how to be trans. And it is beyond the scope of reason for a group of lawmakers to dictate who is and is not transgender.”

Support SB344

With regard to Indiana's economic future, few issues are more important to accomplish in this session.

Kevin Brinegar, President of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said even a bill that doesn’t provide transgender protections is better than nothing.

“With regard to Indiana’s economic future, few issues are more important to accomplish in this session of the General Assembly,” Brinegar said. “This is among the top priorities of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and our state’s business and job creators.”

Due to time constraints, not everyone who wanted to testify had the opportunity. 

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