Indianapolis Mayor Signs Executive Order Protecting LGBT Rights, Criticizes Religious Rights Law

| by Ethan Brown

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard (R) broke rank with his own party on Monday (Mar. 30) by signing an executive order that bans discrimination on basis of gender and/or sexual orientation.

The executive order also advised Indiana state lawmakers and Governor Mike Pence (R) to “expressly add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in state law,” The Huffington Post reports.

CEO's of large corporations, such as Angie’s List and Apple, have voiced their opposition to the new law and have threatened to stop doing business in the state, with Angie’s List cancelling a $40 million project set to take place in Indianapolis. Ballard saw this as a serious problem when he spoke to the public on Monday.

“Our city thrives because we have welcomed and embraced diversity. And RFRA threatens what thousands of people have spent decades building,” he said. 

“This isn’t about politics. This isn’t about PR. This is about doing what’s right for individuals, for our city, and our state,” Ballard continued. “Discrimination is wrong, and I hope that message is being heard loud and clear at the Statehouse.”

RFRA, or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is set to become law on July 1. It is modeled after the federal legislation of the same name, signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1993. Moreover, 19 other states have laws similar to Indiana’s RFRA; however, Indiana’s law does not explicitly protect citizens based on their sexual orientation. Supporters state that the law is not meant to discriminate, but meant to defend the rights of business owners who may want to refuse service to other based on the owner’s religious beliefs.

On Tuesday (Mar. 31), Gov. Pence said in a news conference that the state legislature will begin additions to RFRA, including protecting citizens from discrimination.

“This law does not give anyone the right to discriminate, but I can appreciate that that has become the perception," the Governor said, referring to the media coverage surrounding the legislation.

Pence also appeared on Fox News Tuesday morning to continue to clarify the law’s intent and the legislators’ positions moving forward.

“This issue for me is first about religious liberty,” Pence said. “Indiana is open for business. If we have to make adjustments to this law to make it clear that this law as never intended to give businesses the right to turn away customers on the basis of sexual orientation, we will fix that.”

Sources: USA Today, Indy Star, The Huffington Post 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, indystar.com