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Carmel, Indiana narrowly passes LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance

Carmel, Indiana narrowly passes LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance
Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis.
Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Carmel City Council has narrowly passed an ordinance banning discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity, defeating efforts by social conservatives to block the measure in the affluent Indianapolis suburb.

The council voted 4-to-3 on Monday in favor of the ordinance during a packed meeting.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard had hoped to fast-track the ordinance, which was sponsored by six of the seven council members when it was introduced in August. But socially conservative organizations pushed back against the proposed protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Council member Kevin Rider said he’s against discrimination but couldn’t support the ordinance without some or all of the changes he and two other council members who also voted against the measure had sought, including more exemptions for Christian-owned businesses.

“If you make me choose between God and government, I’m going to choose God every time,” Rider said.

Carmel High School graduate Amanda Joseph, who is gay, urged the council to pass the ordinance. She said that without the protections, she could be evicted from her apartment just for being gay.

“Please vote for me to be protected to live here and to be happy,” she said.

Columbus, Zionsville, Terre Haute, Hammond and Muncie recently passed similar ordinances, joining Indianapolis and about a dozen other Indiana communities that already had such LGBT protections in place.

Indiana does not have statewide LGBT civil rights protections, but a growing number of groups are ratcheting up pressure on the Legislature to approve such protections.

Indiana Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said Tuesday that the Democratic caucus will sponsor a bill next legislative session that would add the phrases “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Indiana’s existing civil rights code.

“If added to the law, we will fulfill what I believe is a very basic, fundamental Hoosier value, which says that all Hoosiers deserve equal protection under the law. There’s no room for short cuts or half measures or exceptions,” he said.

The debate over those protections was spurred by a national uproar last spring when Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a religious objections law passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Critics said that law would allow people to discriminate against LGBT residents. The Legislature later amended the law to bar businesses from using it as a legal defense to refuse to provide services, goods, facilities or accommodations on religious grounds.

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