Senate Bill 344, a proposal being offered as an alternative to Senate Bill 100 allegedly aims to protect LGBTQ people in Indiana; however, the bill is a non-starter with a host of problems, including:
--Gaping exemptions for wedding-related goods, services, and facilities—something at the heart of last year's outcry against the RFRA bill.
--Taxpayer funding and other benefits to go to religiously affiliated nonprofit agencies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
--Licensed medical and social service providers to discriminate or engage in unethical conduct when providing services to LGBTQ individuals without any repercussion to their accreditations or professional licenses.
--Broad exemptions that alter civil rights protections for other classes of individuals.
These are not small concerns. This bill could allow a homeless shelter that receives government funding to turn away a single mother, or permit a religiously-affiliated hospital to deny someone the ability to make medical decisions for a same-sex spouse.
Both SB344 and SB100 represent complicated attempts to cure a problem that requires a very simple solution. Gay and transgender people should not be subjected to legal discrimination in our state. The civil rights law should be updated to reflect that commitment and make it clear that we are an open, welcoming place to live, work and play. The more lawmakers try to dance around the need for real, clear LGBTQ protections, the more it looks like they want a way to maintain the status quo: a state where you can be fired, denied housing or turned away from public places because of who you are or whom you love.