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By Stephanie Wang and Tony Cook
“I’ve yet to talk to someone who thinks the bill is a good idea, with just a couple of few exceptions,” House Speaker Brian Bosma said Thursday. A day after a gay rights proposal got its first nod from lawmakers, the leader of the Indiana House put a damper on the measure’s chances.
He also set an unusually high bar for the measure to get an initial hearing in the House — if it even advances that far.
Such a decision is typically left to the chairman of the House committee to which the bill is assigned. But in this case, Bosma said there won’t be a hearing unless the House Republican caucus — which has 71 members — decides it’s a good idea.
“The one thing we have decided on this is we’re going to have a firm caucus discussion about this and the caucus will decide if the bill is going to proceed or not,” he said.
His comments came less than 24 hours after a Senate panel voted to advance the measure, Senate Bill 344, to the full Senate. Only if the proposla clears the Senate would it move to the House.
The bill would add some protections against discrimination for gay Hoosiers in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations. But it does not include protections for transgender people and it would still allow small wedding service providers, some adoption agencies and religious-affiliated organizations to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long may be the only person satisfied with the proposal.
“Considering where we were a few years ago, (the proposal) is a big step for Indiana,” Long, R-Fort Wayne, said Thursday morning. “It really is, and, I think, in the right direction.”
He later added: “It brings strong religious protections with it, while at the same time, it breaks new ground for us on civil rights.”
After long debate and significant changes made Wednesday night, a committee let the measure advance — but several lawmakers and advocates on both sides of the issue said they wanted to see changes.
But Long said, “I like the bill right now. I think it’s in pretty good shape.”
While Long said he would be open to “improvements,” he said he still had personal reservations about transgender issues, particularly as related to access to bathrooms and locker rooms.
He expected lawmakers to try to amend the bill when it comes before the full Senate on Monday or Tuesday.
“I’m trying to encourage people not to turn this into some kind of a circus,” Long said. “I think it’s important that we have a dignified discussion about this. If you’re going to write an amendment, make it a serious one — one that helps the discussion and the dialogue, and one that’s reflective of your true feelings on the issue in a way that’s constructive.”
The final day for bills to clear the Senate and advance to the House is Wednesday.SHARE THIS STORY