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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

In. Star: No vote on Indianapolis gay discrimination ban

Advocates, critics state their cases to council panel
By Brendan O'Shaughnessy
Supporters and opponents of gay rights presented their arguments Monday to a City-County Council panel considering for the second time a proposal to ban discrimination against gays.

The Rules and Public Policy Committee did not vote on Proposal 622, but the three members present out of seven heard many passionate opinions during more than two hours of public testimony.

More than 100 people attended the meeting, where speakers touched on topics ranging from whether homosexuality is a choice to comparisons with other kinds of civil rights.

The committee is expected to vote on the measure Dec. 13, and it could come before the full council Jan. 5.

Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute, said the proposal was unnecessary because there is no data showing gays have suffered from discrimination.
"There have been heartfelt stories here tonight," Smith said. "But I submit to the council that there has not been any evidence of a public policy problem."

Jackie Nytes, a council member co-sponsoring the proposal, said it is impossible to document the problem because -- unlike racial and gender discrimination -- there is no formal method of measuring how often gay and transgender discrimination occurs. "You can't count instances if there's no law against it," she said.

Current laws protect all workers from discrimination based on race, religion, age and several other factors. The anti-discrimination ordinance would protect gay and transgendered people from being fired or denied housing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

City and state employee hiring policies already include such protections, and the ordinance would extend the protections to people who work at businesses with six or more employees, excluding religious institutions and certain nonprofits. Bloomington, Michigan City, West Lafayette and Fort Wayne already have passed similar ordinances.

The same proposal to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity failed in April in an 18-11 council vote that crossed party lines. Supporters Nytes and Scott Keller re-introduced it last month, hoping to persuade four members to switch their votes and pass it in a second attempt.