Indiana gay rights groups say history is on their side

Businesses across Indiana are participating in campaigns to let LGBT customers know they're welcome, but it might not be enough to completely heal the black eye the state received over its nationally-criticized religious objections law.

Businesses across Indiana are participating in campaigns to let LGBT customers know they're welcome, but it might not be enough to completely heal the black eye the state received over its nationally-criticized religious objections law. Michael Conroy, AP

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana LGBT rights activists say that history is on their side and they will continue pressing for statewide civil rights protections for gender identity and sexual orientation despite lawmakers’ unwillingness to act during the recently adjourned legislative session.

“The momentum is on our side. Public perception is on our side,” said Peter Hanscom, a spokesman for Indiana Competes, a coalition of several hundred businesses including marquee names such as pharmaceutical maker Eli Lilly and Co., truck maker Cummins Inc. and the college sports governing body NCAA.

Lawmakers wrapped up the 2016 session this month without advancing two measures in the Senate that addressed LGBT civil rights protections.

Republican Senate leader David Long initially committed to bringing one of the bills up for a vote, but backed down amid fierce opposition from social conservatives, apathy toward the measures in the GOP-controlled House and statements from Gov. Mike Pence suggesting he would prioritize religious freedoms over gay rights when considering whether to sign or veto any proposed law.

The measure that was preferred by GOP leaders would not have included protections for transgender people, prompting LGBT rights groups to oppose it.

“There was no give on the far left or the far right on this issue,” Long said of the decision to pull the plug on the effort this year.

Even if lawmakers seek to revive efforts to extend LGBT civil rights next year, prominent social conservatives say gay rights supporters will once again face a well-organized opposition.

“We will be responding to all the same arguments — which we consider to be spurious — regarding special rights that violate people’s religious liberty,” Pastor Kevin Baird of the Indiana Pastors Alliance said, adding that the group was already strategizing for next year’s session. “We just believe that it’s a not only personal violation of our faith but a wrong turn for our culture and society at-large.”

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