Transgender community asks lawmakers for civil rights protections

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 1, 2016)-- Indiana senators are considering a bill that extends civil rights protections to lesbian, gay and bisexual Hoosiers, but excludes members of the transgender community.

In response, members of the transgender community greeted lawmakers Monday at the Indiana Statehouse to let them see a different side of the group.

"It’s important to create some visibility for transgender people," said Korvin Bothwell. " A lot of Hoosiers and lawmakers say they haven’t met any transgender people and we wanted to give them the opportunity today."

Instead of extending civil protections to the transgender community, SB 344 calls for a study to be done this summer to examine the topic of discrimination based on gender identity.

Melissa Bickel is the mother of a transgender teen in Indianapolis and came to the statehouse Monday to plead with lawmakers.

"(My daughter) doesn’t need to be studied," Bickel said. "She’s a real person, regular person just like you and I. Just like all my transgender friends from 5 to 65. They are regular people and deserve equal rights. Not special rights, just equal rights."

Lawmakers have said adding protections for the transgender community is too controversial right now for Indiana.

State Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, the bill's sponsor, said this bill is a compromise between protecting the religious freedoms of Hoosiers and the LGBT community.

"I think there is some middle ground for some compromise," Holdman said. "The extreme on both ends are saying absolutely not. No compromise on both ends and I just don’t think that’s how we do it in Indiana.”

Also Monday, more than 240 clergy members in Indiana came out in support of LGBT rights. Rev. Lewis Galloway, Senior Pastor at Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, is one group's members.

“To me there is a simple fix," Galloway said. "Extend civil rights legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity period. Keep it simple. The bills keep trying to carve out all these other exemptions and exceptions and I think that will do nothing, but continue to cloud the issues and create controversy in the long run.”

The Indiana Senate will discuss SB 344 Tuesday afternoon on the Senate floor. Lawmakers have proposed more than a dozen amendments already. Holdman said he expects the bill will be changed before it goes to a vote in the Senate. The Senate could vote on the bill Wednesday, and if it is passed it would then go to the House.

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