INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – State lawmakers returned to the Statehouse for the 2016 General Assembly Tuesday and walked right back into the controversy over religious freedoms versus civil rights.
The governor, meantime, revealed that he will take a public position on the matter in the next week.
For months Mike Pence has said he is studying the proposal to create new civil rights protections for the LGBT community and now says he will spell it out in the State of the State Address next Tuesday.
“We’re looking for the right time and the right opportunity to do that,” he said, “but I do expect it will be an issue that we address when I speak to the General Assembly and the people of Indiana next week.”
The news comes as lawmakers enter an election year session that will be dominated by hot button issues. Democrats in the Indiana House called for LGBT protections.
“Protect Hoosiers for their sexual orientation and gender identity, period,” said Minority Leader Scott Pelath. “Fully treat our LGBT citizens as the friends, neighbors, family members and co-workers that they are.”
Republicans who control the state Senate left the issue out of their agenda, just as the governor did.
“And we don’t have consensus on the LGBT bill, understandably so,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long. “It’s controversial and we have people all over the place on those issues and we’re going to be discussing that throughout the session.”
A spokeswoman for Freedom Indiana pointed to public opinion polls that show public support for a new civil rights law. Chris Paulsen encouraged the General Assembly to “catch up with average Hoosiers.”
There won’t be a public hearing on a civil rights bill until late in the month, according to Long, but he insists that a hearing will be conducted.