The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has attacked Gov. Mike Pence (R) for failing to call for the passage of LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination protections in his State of the State address Tuesday.
LGBT advocates and members of Indiana’s business community have been pushing to introduce such legislation this year. But in his address, Pence appeared to be more concerned with people who cite religious reasons for their opposition to LGBT rights, while avoiding the topic of nondiscrimination altogether.
“I will not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or that interferes with the constitutional rights of our citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service or work,” the governor said.
According to HRC, Pence has “punted” on whether to support the nondiscrimination protections, failing to show leadership and leaving it up to Hoosier lawmakers to determine whether a bill with LGBT protections will pass. Democrats in the legislature have introduced a bill calling for full protections, but Republican leadership in the state senate has proposed its own version containing so many religious exemptions that critics say the protections would be nearly unenforceable.
“To no one’s surprise, yet again Governor Mike Pence has failed Indiana and all Hoosiers,” JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s senior vice president for policy and political affairs, said in a statement. “The state is in urgent need of leadership by the Governor to undo the damage from last year’s debacle, and Pence is clearly unwilling or incapable of doing the job.”
Last year, Pence signed into law Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which critics claimed allowed people to discriminate openly against the LGBT community under the guise of religious freedom. The law’s passage inspired a backlash from the business community and several other states and cities, some of whom instituted bans on official government travel to Indiana until the Hoosier lawmakers passed a “fix” to the law.
A campaign spokesman for Pence’s presumptive general election opponent, John Gregg (D), who also ran against Pence in a very tight race in 2012, called Pence a “national embarrassment” in the run up to the State of the State address.
“While on one hand he says he believes no one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are or who they love, he completely failed to call for fully inclusive LGBT nondiscrimination protections,” continued Winterhof. “Not only is passing these crucial nondiscrimination protections a key to moving the state forward, it’s what LGBT Hoosiers and their families deserve. The time to act is now.”