Advocacy groups aim to further expand LGBT rights at state level

Opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, march towards Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 4, 2015 to push for a state law that specifically bars discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, march towards Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 4, 2015 to push for a state law that specifically bars discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Doug McSchooler, AP

Opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, march towards Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 4, 2015 to push for a state law that specifically bars discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.Doug McSchooler, AP

Opponents of Indiana Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, march towards Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 4, 2015 to push for a state law that specifically bars discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

INDIANAPOLIS — Gay rights advocates are hoping to parlay the momentum from their legislative victories in Indiana and Arkansas this week into further expanding legal protections for gays and lesbians in those states and others.

Facing widespread pressure, including from big businesses such as Apple and Wal-Mart, lawmakers in Indiana and Arkansas rolled back their states’ new religious objections laws, which critics said could be used to discriminate against gays. Amid the uproar, the Republican governors of Michigan and North Dakota urged their own legislatures to extend anti-discrimination protections to gays.

Twenty-nine states currently don’t include protections for gays and lesbians in their non-discrimination laws, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. But the Indiana and Arkansas laws, along with court rulings or legislatures legalizing same-sex marriage in 37 states and an expected U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage this year, are fueling efforts to change that as the 2016 elections approach.

“We’re not going to let any of these people off the hot seat,” said Kathy Sarris, co-founder of the gay-rights group Indiana Equality Action. “This ultimately is going to happen in Indiana.”

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Hundreds of people calling for Indiana to add protections for gays and lesbians to state civil rights laws marched through downtown Indianapolis on Saturday, drawing the attention of fans attending the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.

They chanted “No more Band-Aids masking hate,” before they walked several blocks to Lucas Oil Stadium, site of the NCAA men’s basketball championship semi-final and final games.

Most of the states without sexual orientation protections are in the South or the Plains, which tend to be more conservative. As public opinion has become more supportive of same-sex marriage and other gay rights in recent years, many businesses say such protections factor into their decisions about expansions and help them attract top employees.

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