Without rose-colored glasses, RFRA damage still looms

Without rose-colored glasses, RFRA damage still looms

By Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson

Now that the dust has settled from the conclusive primary contests and the national news trucks have left the state, it is time to refocus our attention to policies that have a direct effect on the state’s economy and the everyday lives of Hoosiers. Indiana still has a pressing issue that hasn’t been addressed, one that continues to shed a bad light on the state.

RFRA’s continuing economic damage to the state has gone from bad to worse. We have already witnessed outside companies boycotting the state to the tune of $256 million immediately following RFRA. Indianapolis lost more than a dozen conventions and an estimated $60 million last year. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce acknowledged the damage done to Indiana businesses, prompting over 400 Hoosier companies to form a coalition urging lawmakers to pass full LGBT civil rights protections. And now, our home-grown problem has come full-circle.

Recently, news broke of the NCAA Board of Governors’ decision to implement a new requirement for cities bidding to host major events. The rule, once implemented, would bar major NCAA sporting events from taking place in cities that do not ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. They cited both the safety and security of athletes and attendees. They also cited the “recent actions of legislatures in several states” as not reflecting the core values of this Indiana-based organization.

This is just one example of a continuing trend that Statehouse Republican leaders need to fix or our state, rich with a history in sports and a once bustling hospitality industry, will continue to suffer.

The governor should have shown leadership on this issue in 2015. Leaders take action. They balance both sides and build consensus. They at least acknowledge an issue. Sadly, the governor once again omitted LGBT protections from his agenda this year and left the matter to the legislature where Republican supermajorities in both the House and Senate defined inaction. Where did that leave us? It left us as a state with unfinished business and an already hurting economy, with local shops and businesses that continue to lose income, Worst of all, it leaves an entire group of Hoosiers in over half of the state unprotected by our Civil Rights statutes.

Our ongoing failure to protect all Hoosiers has never left the forefront. The issue recently resurfaced when Salesforce coupled their most recent jobs announcement with a renewed call for statewide civil rights protections for the LGBT community. RFRA, the RFRA “fix”, the governor and the Republican supermajorities’ failure to address the LGBT protections that 70 percent of Hoosiers support demonstrates how pandering to special interests only moves us backwards.

It makes Indiana look like we are stuck in the middle of last century instead of moving ahead in this one. The embarrassment of RFRA and the legislature’s inability to subsequently pass full LGBT civil rights protections unfairly portray all Hoosiers as being unwelcoming. The NCAA knows it, the business community knows it, and Hoosiers know it. We must act to bring Indiana into the 21st century.

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