It's hard to believe, but there are currently no explicit statewide laws in Indiana prohibiting discrimination against gay and transgender Hoosiers.
In fact, since the so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA) passed last year—to national backlash from big business, tech giants, major sports organizations, renown entertainers, and governors across the country—LGBT Hoosiers have been more vulnerable to discrimination than they were before.
RFRA didn't only carry harmful consequences for Indiana's LGBT community; it proved incredibly damaging for Indiana's economy as well. Some estimates figure the Hoosier state lost billions over RFRA-related fall-out.
Now, lawmakers have introduced several pieces of legislation to "fix" RFRA that do more harm than good—in some cases extending harmful religious exemptions, overriding local non-discrimination ordinances, or completely writing transgender people out of the bill.
At the end of the day the bills that lawmakers have proposed overly complicate an issue that is very simple. The easiest and most immediate solution to Indiana's problem of LGBT discrimination is to add four words and a comma to the existing civil rights bill: "sexual orientation, gender identity."
Tell your lawmakers: Hoosiers don't need complex fixes when there are simple solutions. Update Indiana's civil rights law to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to ensure LGBT Hoosiers are protected from discrimination.
As your constituent, I am writing to urge you to support nothing short of comprehensive non-discrimination protections for gay and transgender Hoosiers during the 2016 legislative session.
As you must know, currently there are no explicit protections for gay and transgender Hoosiers in employment, housing and public accommodations. There is a simple solution to that, though—updating Indiana's civil rights law to include four words: "sexual orientation, gender identity"
Pending legislation to supposedly address this problem—specifically SB 66, SB 100 and SB 344—falls short. Most notably, SB 344 offers zero protections to transgender Hoosiers, leaving thousands of hardworking people across our state vulnerable to discrimination with no legal recourse.
We've already seen the economic and reputational damage Indiana suffered in the wake of RFRA. While SB 100 is designed to repair some of that damage, as it currently stands, the legislation actually creates more questions—and grave problems—than it answers. And from where I stand, SB 66 could just as well be titled "Super RFRA."
Fortunately, there is an easy solution to this problem: adding "sexual orientation, gender identity" to the section of state code that already contains non-discrimination protections based on race, gender, veteran status and religion. Recent, independent polling shows an impressive 70% support for updating our civil rights laws in this way.
As a Hoosier and your constituent, I hope you will support this legislative solution and work to pass it in the upcoming session. Doing so is essential to guaranteeing that all people in our state are treated fairly and with respect—and it is vital to ensuring that our state can continue to compete in the national and global marketplace.
Please, only advance legislation that fully protects LGBT Hoosiers. Nothing less.
Thank you for your consideration.