INDIANAPOLIS (June 29, 2015) – Gay rights activists are working on a new push, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gave couples nationwide the right to marry.
Their new battle: Can Hoosiers and Americans be fired for being gay?
After Indiana’s religious freedom debate, the state could be poised to play a leading role in the movement’s next big fight between religious liberties and nondiscrimination protections for gays and lesbians.
“Indiana is still one of the states you can be fired or denied housing or denied access to a public place if you’re gay,” said Jennifer Wagner, a spokesperson for Freedom Indiana.
The American Civil Liberties Union reports Indiana is among more than two dozen states that don’t legally protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination.
The movement to do so will pit protections against personal beliefs.
“We will see an aggressive effort in the 2015 Indiana General Assembly to pass laws that will put pastors, churches, Christian businesses, Christian colleges at grave risk,” Eric Miller said, the executive director of Advance America. “We’ll be here to defend religious freedom.”
Nationally advocates for greater LGBT protections don’t want to wait on a patchwork of states like Indiana to battle it out. Instead, they say they’ll push for a comprehensive law nationwide.
“We’re talking about employment,” Stacey Long Simmons said, the director of public policy and government affairs for the National LGBTQ Task Force. “We’re talking about housing, public accommodations, education.”
The push in Congress won’t be easy. A federal employment non-discrimination act has failed year after year.
“I think we have to do both,” Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) said. “We have to respect the religious liberties and rights of conscious of individuals here in our country, and we’re also going to have to stop discrimination in a world where the Supreme Court says everybody has a right to marry.”
In Indiana, lawmakers passed on an opportunity study the impact of a non-discrimination law during a summer study committee. Instead both sides say they are preparing for a rigorous debate next session.