INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republican leaders on Thursday forcefully denied a “sneak attack” to expand civil rights protections for gays and lesbians, responding to a new video by a prominent LGBT rights opponent that cryptically suggests lawmakers may try to enact legislation next month that would harm “the children of Indiana.”
In a slickly produced YouTube video, Advance America founder Eric Miller — usually a close ally of GOP lawmakers — offers no evidence to support the allegation and never describes what proposal he suspects will be introduced. However, he said “reliable sources” have told him that the bill will be pushed on Organization Day — an event before the kickoff of the legislative session that is typically reserved for speeches and administrative matters.
“This sneak attack could involve passing bill on Nov. 17 dealing with sexual activity and children,” Miller says in the video posted to his website. He did not respond to requests for comment.
Some Republicans expressed dismay over the allegation.
“Let me be perfectly clear. There is no ‘sneak attack’ planned,” House Speaker Brian Bosma said on Twitter. He said “a simple phone call” could have cleared up any misconception.
Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, the No. 2 ranking GOP leader in the Senate, said in a Facebook post that “absolutely no legislation regarding religious freedom or LGBT issues will be debated or voted upon on Organization Day, and has never been contemplated.”
A spokesman for Republican Gov. Mike Pence said in an email that the governor was “not aware of any effort to pass legislation on organization day.”
For months, gay rights supporters and religious conservatives who clashed last spring over the state’s religious objections law have anticipated a bitter debate when the Legislature convenes — this time over enshrining protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Pence and key leaders in the GOP-controlled Legislature have gone to lengths to avoid discussing the matter publicly, even as they are having private conversations with prominent state business leaders who support LGBT rights.
Flyers with scripted talking points were delivered to local churches that stated LGBT rights posed a “grave” public safety risk because it would “give men, including sexual predators … legal access to women’s and girl’s restrooms.” Elected leaders later said they were bombarded with calls and emails that repeated that script.
“I think he’s just trying to spread fear among his followers,” said Chris Paulsen, campaign manager for the pro-LGBT group Freedom Indiana.
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