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New civil rights bill removes 'gender identity'

Posted at 11:51 AM, Jan 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-07 22:46:00-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- Among the hundreds of new bills proposed in the Indiana legislature, two are garnering attention in the state.

One is Senate Bill 100, originally introduced in November, which would prevent discrimination in housing, education and employment to people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or military status. 

It would protect religious leaders from performing marriages based on their religious beliefs, but force the state and local governments to issue marriage licenses regardless of the couple's sexual orientation or gender identity.

SB 100 would also protect businesses from providing services related to marriage to people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, as long as that business has fewer than four employees.

It would also define "gender identity" for the state as " gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior," whether or not it's associated with the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth. It would have to be shown by providing medical care or be consistent with what they've said for one year.

READ | Full text for SB 100

The person who authored and filed SB 100 -- Sen. Travis Holdman -- recently introduced Senate Bill 344, a similar bill also aimed at balancing "religious liberty and civil rights protections for gay and lesbian Hoosiers."

READ | Full text for SB 334

The major difference that's garnering attention between the two bills is that SB 344 removes nearly all mentions of "gender identity," including the section that defines gender identity for the state. Any section that would say "sexual orientation and gender identity" in SB 100 just says "sexual orientation" in SB 334.

SB 334 allows for an interim committee to study discrimination based on gender identity.

These bills are controversial because of last year's Religious Reform Restoration Act, a law introduced in March 2015. Changes to the law were enacted in April. 

PREVIOUS | Gov. Pence signs RFRA changes into law

Freedom Indiana, an organization against discrimination of gay and transgender Hoosiers, released a statement Thursday on SB 334.

The statement reads, in part:

"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 LGBT 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."

Why did Holdman file SB 334 if he had already filed SB 100? According to him, it was to "encourage further discussion" on the issues.

“As we all know, there is not consensus on this issue currently, and I believe having an alternative idea to consider will help move the debate forward in a constructive manner,” he said in a statement.

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