According to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who spoke to reporters on Tuesday, the “difficult time” for the state is over. He was referring to the national backlash after he signed into law a piece of expansive legislation known as the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), which was intended to allow for discrimination against LGBT people. Despite his optimism, it’s clear the state is still in damage control mode — and still has damage to control.
Despite the “fix” passed to ensure the RFRA cannot be used to discriminate, Hoosiers still do not enjoy statewide LGBT protections. In other words, outside of the few municipalities with local protections, anti-LGBT discrimination is still legal throughout most of the state. This week, lawmakers made several attempts to begin the process of creating those protections, but Republican leadership quashed them, claiming there wasn’t enough time to tackle such a policy change.
One amendment to an unrelated House bill was defeated 66-24 because it wasn’t closely related enough to the original bill. Another proposal in the Senate simply would have created of a special committee to study the issue, but Republicans shot it down on a 40-10 party line vote, claiming it could have been better worded. With the legislative session winding down, there likely will not be another opportunity for nondiscrimination protections to come up. In other words, despite weeks of claiming that they don’t support discrimination, Indiana’s Republican leadership just rejected all attempts to protect against it.
Pence suggested Tuesday that Hoosiers have “a great story to tell,” adding, “I really do believe that we are through the storm, that now’s the time to heal.” That’s probably why the state has hired a public relations firm to try to convince the world that the state is a welcoming place. After amending the RFRA to appease businesses threatening the state, it is now investing $2 million of taxpayer money to try to reform Indiana’s image. With discrimination still legal in most parts of the state, the firm has its work cut out for it.