Democrats attempt to restart the LGBT rights debate

As promised, Indiana Democrats are trying to restart the discussion about LGBT rights.

During Thursday’s House Education Committee, Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, attempted to propose an amendment that would extend protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender charter school employees and students.

“What it simply says—that in charter schools, that there [will be] no discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or veteran status,” she said.

But Committee Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, ruled the amendment out of order, saying it’s would be inconsistent to provide LGBT rights to only charter school employees and students.

“If we do this, it would be the only place it would be in law,” he said, “which to me makes no sense at all that it only applies here.”

“It’s creative the way you have put this language together in the bill,” said Behning. “But I truly believe the issue that you’re bringing in front of us really belongs in the Judiciary Committee, not in our committee discussion.”

Democrats on the committee did not appreciate Behning’s all-or-nothing viewpoint.

“I don’t quite buy the proposition that it needs to be somewhere else where it’s applicable here,” said Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary. “We ought to put it wherever else it’s applicable.”

And Democrats say that’s what they intend to do. The Education Committee was one of two committees Thursday where Democrats proposed amendments involving LGBT rights. The other was filed in the House Local Government Committee, where they were told the amendment was filed too late, according to House Democrat Chief of Staff Trent Deckard.

After a bill extending protections to gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals failed in the Senate on Feb. 2, Democrats decided they weren’t ready to let the debate end for the 2016 legislative session. House Minority Leader Scott Pelath said Thursday’s attempts to add amendments were just the beginning.

“Members are going to be looking for any way to keep the debate going,” he said.

Pelath said Republicans “can’t rule things out of order forever,” but Republicans hold the supermajority in the General Assembly. House Speaker Brian Bosma said he expects the Democrats’ strategy will not be successful in establishing policy.

“As the bill has not proceeded out of the Senate, I think it’s trying to make more of a political point—get political votes—than it is on the policy at this point, and I understand that from the minority party,” said Bosma. “So, we’ll deal with it.”

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