Indiana, like Arkansas, passed a state law meant to give people a religious pretext for legal discrimination against gay people — in jobs, housing and public services.
In Indiana, as in Arkansas, some local governments have bucked the effort to protect discrimination. This story in today’s New York Times is particularly instructive.
It’s about Columbus, Ind. the hometown of Indiana’s Republican governor. After a lengthy hearing, the City Council of Columbus — all Republicans — unanimously approved a city ordinance to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This is much farther than the moderately progressive Little Rock City Board went in requiring non-discrimination by those who do business with the city. It is also tougher than the modest penalties in the city ordinance adopted in Fayetteville. The Columbus ordinance carries penalties up to $50,000 for repeat violations.
Nor is Columbus alone.
Columbus is only the latest municipality in Indiana to take such a step. Since Mr. Pence signed the religious freedom law, efforts to enact local anti-discrimination measures have spread across the state. Hammond, Muncie, Terre Haute, Whitestown and Zionsville have enacted or added to such protections in recent months, while measures have stalled before councils in Elkhart, Goshen and Carmel.
Why is this happening? It’s good for business.
Columbus is also home to Cummins Inc., a global engine manufacturer that is the city’s largest employer. Partly because of its quest to attract top-flight talent, the company supports anti-discrimination measures. At a public hearing this month, some Cummins employees testified in favor of protections, among them Jacqueline R. Patterson, 63, a transgender woman and an engineer who told the crowded auditorium that adding the new categories to city anti-discrimination laws would “do nothing but allow us to live our lives.”
…Calling himself a Christian who wanted to do “what’s right for the people who live here,” Tim Shuffett, the City Council president, noted that some of the city’s major employers had urged it to adopt the protections.
“There is a business relationship we’re trying to grow and cultivate,” Mr. Shuffett said.
The Republican majority Arkansas legislature rejects such arguments. Most of our legislators prefer NOT to leave people alone, even as they decry government overreach except when it comes to the bedroom and women’s physicians.
The article mentions an Indiana Republican businessman’s effort to organize tech and other businesses to promote a statewide nondiscrimination measure. Any takers here?