By CHRIS PAULSEN
There’s much discussion regarding national LGBT activism. Recently, even President Obama mandated that schools give transgender students access to activities and facilities consistent with their gender identity. But the true advances are being made locally – county by county, city by city, town by town.
More than 21 Human Rights Ordinances have been passed in Indiana, most with full protection to include gender identity. More than 38 percent of Indiana’s population live under some form of HRO. We’ve made great strides – but we’re far from finished.
Why spend time at the local level? Our state representatives are not currently motivated to pass these laws. Their lack of action is certainly not due to a belief that Hoosiers don’t support HROs. An Indy Star/Ball State poll shows about 70 percent of Indiana residents believe our LGBT community deserve these protections.
We haven’t given up on support at the state level. But our efforts locally are more successful and help build the case that state-wide equality laws are necessary. As our state lawmakers see the movement in their local districts, they’re more likely to support statewide legislation.
Why not JUST focus locally? Because all LGBT Hoosiers must be covered equally.
Indiana’s local protections each have slightly different wording, different religious exemptions and different ramifications. As an example, Indianapolis has an exemption for small businesses that isn’t included in Carmel’s legislation. As a result, a business owner with less than three employees within Indianapolis city limits can still deny us services or fire/not hire us based on our sexual or gender orientation. Cross into Carmel, and a small business is no different than a large corporation.
How can you help?
Many other Indiana communities have yet to pass these ordinances. Fishers, for example, currently offers no protection to LGBT individuals on a local level. Residents in Fishers need to reach out to their city counselors and mayor to let them know this is important. They must let their business owners know of the economic impact of not passing an HRO (84 percent of new businesses in 2015 chose cities with HROs to call home).
Better yet – build a coalition, a group of concerned citizens, to advise your town or city of the importance of these ordinances. There’s power in numbers.
To find out if your community has adopted a Human Rights Ordinance, or to easily email your legislators to let them know of your support, visit FreedomIndiana.org. Help us gain momentum locally to ensure that state and national protection follows.
Chris Paulsen is campaign manager for Freedom Indiana (freedomindiana.org), a statewide grassroots campaign working to update Indiana’s civil rights law to protect gay and transgender Hoosiers.