Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and the City-County Council on Monday called on the Indiana General Assembly to either repeal the divisive Religious Freedom Restoration Act or add explicit protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in state law.
Ballard also issued an executive order that anyone who receives money from the city government must abide by its human rights ordinance, which has had such protections in place for a decade.
His comments at a Monday afternoon news conference were the strongest yet from the Republican leader of the state’s capital and largest city in the wake of the bill, which was signed by Gov. Mike Pence last week.
Flanked by business leaders, Ballard denounced the law not only as a threat to the city’s economic interests, but as a serious concern for residents and visitors who fear that they could be subjected to discrimination for religious reasons.
“Our city thrives because we have welcomed and embraced diversity. And RFRA threatens what thousands of people have spent decades building,” Ballard said.
“Discrimination is wrong. And I hope that message is being heard loud and clear at our Statehouse.”
Hours after Ballard’s comments, the council passed a resolution of its own, 24-4, in order to “send a crystal clear message that Indianapolis is a welcoming and diverse city,” said Vice President John Barth, a Democrat.
Republican council members Virginia Cain, Aaron Freeman, Jack Sandlin and Jason Holliday voted against it but did not explain their votes during the meeting. Nine Republicans and all 15 Democrats voted in favor.
Supporters say the RFRA, set to become law on July 1, is needed to protect religious freedom from government intrusion, pointing to similar laws across the country. But circumstances unique to Indiana’s bill have sparked a national firestorm over fears that it could legalize discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Chief among those circumstances is the fact that many states with an RFRA, including neighboring Illinois, also have statewide bans on discrimination based on sexual orientation, alongside other protected classes such as race, sex and religion.
Indiana has no such protections. And it explicitly prohibits local human rights ordinances from being exempt from the RFRA.
Read more: indystar.com