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Senate could debate civil rights bill Monday

Posted at 11:13 PM, Jan 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-28 23:13:22-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- The president of the Indiana Senate is calling a civil rights bill approved by a committee Wednesday night a "major step forward" for the state.

But the fate of that measure is far from clear. 

Senate President David Long says the bill provides strong religious protections, while offering expanded civil rights to lesbian, gay and bi-sexual Hoosiers. 

He is promising a discussion in the full Senate, although it is unclear if the measure will have the support to pass. 

A Senate committee narrowly approved the bill, aimed at balancing religious liberty and civil rights protections for gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual Hoosiers. 

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Long said the committee is opting to study issues related to civil rights for transgender individuals at a later date because of questions on the changes it would bring, including access to bathrooms. 

"It's changed the discussion and the dynamic of it. We need more time to figure it out," Sen. David Long said. 

Long says it took months of work to craft the proposal, one that carves out exemptions for religious organizations, and adoption agencies and crisis pregnancy centers with a mission of bringing pregnancies to full term. 

The measure repeals the religious freedom act, which set off a firestorm of criticism last year. Long says the law was misrepresented. And he points to the timing, one year after a debate on a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. 

"The same-sex Supreme Court of the United States ruling changed the whole dynamic on LGBT rights and we walked into that storm. The fact RFRA was a judicial standard was lost in that debate," Long says. 

But, Long is one of few who says they're satisfied with Senate Bill 344. He says it was the best effort law makers could have given under the circumstances. 

"In one case, it's nothing. In the other case, it has to be four words and a comma, that's not how this process works. In between is a solution somewhere," Long said. 

The Senate could discuss the bill as soon as Monday. Long says it's an important discussion to have and one that is important to the entire state. 


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