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Judge rules suit against cities' discrimination laws can move forward

November 17, 2016

A Hamilton County judge has ruled that a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of human rights ordinances in four Indiana cities can continue, despite the cities’ arguments that there was no legal standing to bring the suit.

Hamilton Superior Judge Steve Nation on Wednesday denied almost all of the motions the cities of Carmel, Indianapolis, Bloomington and Columbus filed to dismiss a lawsuit brought against them and their human rights ordinances by the Indiana Family Institute Inc., Indiana Family Action Inc. and the American Family Association of Indiana Inc.

The three conservative organizations argued in their complaint that the human rights ordinances in each of the four cities, which all provide protections against LGBT discrimination, are unconstitutional and “substantially burden” the organizations’ religious freedom by preventing them from hosting pro-traditional marriage events in the cities.

Specifically, Terre Haute attorney Jim Bopp of the Bopp Law Firm argued before Nation on Nov. 2 that the “fix” to the state's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act was unconstitutional because it prohibits LGBT discrimination unless a person or organization is affiliated with a church or a member of the clergy. With the fix in place, Bopp said the family values groups have no legal protection against the human rights ordinances.

But counsel for the four cities told Nation at the hearing that the three organizations had not yet been negatively impacted by the ordinances and, thus, had no legal standing to bring their case. Further, the cities told Nation that because there had been no actual injury to IFI, IFA or AFA, the case was not ripe for judgment.

Specifically, the four cities, which all presented similar arguments, argued that the case should be dismissed.

Libby Goodknight, attorney for the city of Carmel, Pam Schneeman, attorney for the city of Indianapolis, Alan Whitted, Columbus city attorney and Bopp did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Nation’s order on Wednesday. Thomas Cameron, Bloomington assistant city attorney, said the city does not comment on ongoing litigation.

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