Today, HRC urged Indiana Governor Mike Pence to join the overwhelming majority of Hoosiers and endorse fully-inclusive non-discrimination protections for all LGBT people in Indiana during his State of the State address tomorrow night. In the year since Gov. Pence threw Indiana into chaos by signing a law allowing anyone who claims a religious exemption to discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers and other minorities, he has shown little leadership in moving the state forward – despite the fact that an incredible 70 percent of Hoosiers support LGBT non-discrimination protections and the business community is demanding action.
“Governor Mike Pence has remained quiet for far too long on an issue that actually unites the overwhelming majority of Hoosiers and a vocal chorus of Indiana-based companies,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Governor Pence knows as well as anyone else that the First Amendment already provides people of faith with religious protections. With his State of the State address, Governor Pence has the opportunity to show long overdue leadership by telling both Hoosiers and Indiana companies – and people across the nation – that Indiana will embrace full LGBT non-discrimination protections and provide equal treatment under the law.”
Last year, Governor Pence inflicted a tremendous amount of damage to the state’s reputation and business climate when he signed legislation allowing individuals to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people and other minorities. Facing tremendous economic damage and mounting public pressure from fair-minded Americans and business leaders, he then signed legislation limiting the damage of the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) but falling far short of providing a full solution. The measure failed to explicitly ensure that the RFRA won’t be used to undermine the full scope of Indiana existing non-discrimination laws, and did not add LGBT non-discrimination protections to the state’s civil rights laws.
Despite his inability last spring in an interview to say whether or not LGBT people should be protected from discrimination, fair-minded Hoosiers across the state will be closely watching his address tomorrow night to see if he’s finally willing to lead on this important issue. Businesses across the state have united to push for fully inclusive LGBT non-discrimination protections. The editorial board of the Indianapolis Star has repeatedly called for these protections, including in a recent piece on what Pence needs to say in his upcoming address.
Following the catastrophe last spring, HRC released a case study of the damage Pence caused in his push for the discriminatory law. In a poll conducted by HRC, a stunning 75 percent of Hoosiers reported that the governor’s push damaged Indiana’s business climate. It also showed that, when asked, “Do you think businesses should or should not be allowed to refuse service to someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” voters said businesses should not discriminate by an overwhelming margin of 70 to 24. A majority of Republican voters (58 to 36) said that businesses should not be allowed to discriminate.
HRC is a founding member of Freedom Indiana – the statewide grassroots organization fighting to update existing Indiana laws against discrimination to include LGBT Hoosiers.