LGBT civil rights supporters promise to fight again in 2017

LGBT rights supporters rallied at the statehouse Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A civil rights bill that died on the Senate floor Tuesday left the LGBT community and its supporters disappointed.

Not only did they feel the Senate Bill 344 was incomplete for not including transgender protections, they were also against it failing all together.

LGBT community members tell 24-Hour News 8 they are under the impression that even though it passed through committee hearing last week, there was to be more debate on making sure transgender protections would be added.

That didn’t happen Tuesday.

And as proponents look to next year’s fight, they’re also leaning on a few positives from this session.

Back in his element Tuesday, Vital Skate shop owner Kovin Bothwell focused on his roller derby passion. He teaches skills training for the Naptown Girls Roller Girls.

“How to skate, how to keep your balance,” he said of his job.

Recently, much of his time has been dedicated not to his business but to the statehouse where he was advocating for equal rights for the LGBT community. Bothwell, who is transgender, spoke out against SB 344 for not including transgender protections and was only further disappointed when the bill died without being amended.

But at the very least, he knows his voice and that of several on his side were heard.

“I’ve had the chance to sit down with lawmakers. I’ve know many members of the transgender community have had a chance to sit down with lawmakers, so we’re getting there, we’re making our presence known,” he said.

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar supported the bill, even testifying at the committee hearing last week. But he did so with the hope that lawmakers could come to a compromise on transgender protections. He felt the bill as it stood was incomplete.

“I made that statement so that we could have further discussions about including protections, if not for employment, housing and public accommodation, at least for employment and housing,” he said. “There has to be legislators and folks in the hallway with open minds and are willing to look at and work on a path to a solution, a path to a compromise.”

Brinegar added that the chamber will push strongly to expand civil rights laws again next year.

But Bothwell feels even a failed attempt this year is better than no attempt at all.

“The transgender community is just getting stronger and stronger as a result, and that’s a nice positive,” he said. Bothwell also plans to be back for the next session. “Keep doing what we’re doing, keep reaching out to people, keep talking to our lawmakers and get that message out that Indiana deserves full equality for LGBT Hoosiers,” he said.

We reached out to the Indiana Family Institute (IFI), an organization that opposed the bill for infringing on small business owners who wanted to protect their religious beliefs. The organization did not return our messages.

IFI’s Operations and Public Policy Director, Ryan McCann, sent out a tweet Tuesday afternoon that read, “SB 344 is dead, long live Religious Freedom! However, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. IGA isn’t adjourned until March 15.”

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