INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (January 12, 2016) - It was what the Governor said Tuesday during his State of the State address, that had many LGBT activists outraged and fearful that a lack of action in Indiana protecting the LGBT community could lead to fallout like that seen in 2015 over the state’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“I will not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom or Hoosiers or interferes with the constitutional rights of our citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service or work,” said Governor Mike Pence Tuesday.
Pence was unclear as to whether he’d support a bill that would enhance civil rights for gay, lesbian, and transgender Hoosiers.
"So as you go about your work on this and other issues, know that I will always give careful consideration to any bill that you send me. But legislation must be consistent with the Indiana constitution,” he said.
“There were a lot of sighs and a lot of groans and there was a lot of heads in hands,” said Cameron St. Andrews, a supporter of expanding civil protections for LGBT Hoosiers.
St. Andrews watched the Governor’s speech from the Indianapolis Arts Garden with more than 200 LGBT rights supporters. He and others were frustrated at the Governor’s lack of clarity on his stance relative to LGBT rights. Following a 2015 that was consumed by enhanced LGBT rights, St. Andrews thought civil rights protections in Indiana would be the natural next step.
“It seems like the most compassionate thing to do yet it continuously gets skirted; it’s logical, it’s common sense and yet the religion still pushes civil rights to the side,” he said.
“He completely punted on the issue, he didn’t lay out a plan of his own, he didn’t lay out any vision for the problem he created last year with RFRA,” said Freedom Indiana Communications Director, Jennifer Wagner.
While Freedom Indiana, the forefront organization fighting for LGBT rights promises to persuade lawmakers into supporting civil rights enhancements, Statehouse republicans it seems are siding with the Governor.
“He said he’d take a hard look at it. I think he expressed his concerns about religious freedom articulately, I know they were genuine, we’ve had these discussions privately,” said State Senator, and Senate President Pro Tem, David Long (R – Fort Wayne).
The big question now, if Republican Senators like David Long support the Governor’s position on the LGBT issue, does this effectively kill any civil rights expansions for the LGBT community?