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Indiana lawmakers won't hold formal study of statewide LGBT protections this summer

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers won't spend the summer discussing whether to grant statewide civil rights protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents despite lingering fallout over a new religious objections law.

The issue that roiled the state during this year's legislative session wasn't included in more than three dozen topics lawmakers said Thursday they would study before reconvening in January.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long told the Evansville Courier & Press (http://bit.ly/1SF2Eq7 ) that he still anticipates a legislative proposal on those protections next year and said lawmakers will "quietly" analyze the matter in the interim.

But Long, a Fort Wayne Republican, said there wasn't enough support to convene a formal study committee, in which lawmakers meet publicly to recommend potential legislation.

Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said he was frustrated by the decision.

"I am fearful some have failed to absorb the lessons imparted this past session," Lanane said in a statement.

Businesses canceled travel to Indiana, the NCAA raised objections and conventions canceled after Gov. Mike Pence signed the law, which critics contended would allow business owners citing religious beliefs to discriminate against the LGBT community. Lawmakers revised the law to address the anti-gay concerns and quieted some of the immediate firestorm, but tourism officials say the damage to the reputation of a state that relies heavily on convention business could last for years.

The state is expected to spend up to $2 million on a New York public relations hired to help repair the damage.

Lanane said the debate over the law exposed a gap between residents who oppose discrimination and lawmakers who continue "to advance social policy more befitting of the 1850s."

"The only way to truly rebuild our state's tattered image is to outlaw discrimination against our LGBT neighbors, period," he said.

Lanane said Democrats will file legislation to ban discrimination against LGBT residents during the next legislative session.

Long said it's too soon to say whether a vote on such protections will occur next year in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The 16-member Legislative Council that sets summer committees did agree to study whether the state should replace its ISTEP+ testing program for students in grades three through 10 and examine the use of needle exchange programs to curb the transmission of infectious diseases among intravenous drug users. Lawmakers also will study whether to extend the state's indoor smoking ban to bars, casinos and private clubs and take a closer look at ongoing problems at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which has revealed millions in overcharges to Indiana motorists.

State Rep. Dan Forestal, D-Indianapolis, praised the decision to further examine the issues at the BMV, saying the problems at the agency are so great that a broad review is warranted.

"The last thing we need is to leave the reforms in the hands of those who have played a huge role in making this mess," he said. "The BMV administration cannot be trusted to do what's right."


Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com

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