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Indiana religious right groups go to court to overturn local human rights laws

Indiana religious right groups go to court to overturn local human rights laws
Indiana governor Mike Pence (seated) at a private ceremony to sign a religious freedom bill into law, Thursday, March 26, 2015. In a separate unreleased photo, Pence is surrounded by leaders of local anti-LGBT religious right advocacy groups as he signs the discriminatory bill into law.Photo: Indiana governor's office

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Two faith-based groups have argued in a Hamilton County courtroom that anti-discrimination ordinances in four Indiana cities hurt their organizations.

But attorneys for Indianapolis, Carmel, Bloomington and Columbus argued Wednesday that the Indiana Family Institute and American Family Association of Indiana aren’t even governed by the regulations, which protect the rights of LGBT residents, and that the groups haven’t been harmed or affected in any way.

The groups filed the lawsuit last December, challenging a revision that state legislators passed in 2015 that tempered the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The revision said the law couldn’t be used to justify denying housing, jobs or services based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We don’t want people hiding in wait for us when we go to argue our faith-based principles,” said attorney Jim Bopp of the conservative groups. “… Nobody wants to be confronted by the government under the penalties of potential fines.”

The cities’ attorneys argued the case should be dismissed because the nonprofit organizations are political advocacy interest groups and have fewer than six employees, which is the minimum requirement for the employment provisions to apply.

Indianapolis and Bloomington’s ordinances have been in place for years, while Columbus and Carmel added theirs more recently. Fort Wayne’s human rights ordinance wasn’t named in the suit.

Hamilton Superior Court Judge Steven Nation said he will decide at a later date whether to let the case proceed.

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