A friend sent me a link to a research report issued by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law. The abstract pretty much says it all:
Approximately 133,000 LGBT workers in Indiana are not explicitly protected from discrimination under state law. Discrimination against LGBT employees in Indiana has been documented in court cases, administrative complaints, and other sources. Many corporate employers and public opinion in Indiana support protections for LGBT people in the workplace. If sexual orientation and gender identity were added to existing statewide non-discrimination laws, 61 additional complaints of discrimination would be filed with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission each year. Adding these characteristics to existing law would not be costly or burdensome for the state to enforce.
Recent polling discloses that 73% of Indiana residents support the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected class under Indiana’s existing civil rights law. That’s 73% in Very Red Indiana.
Major employers in the state have worked with civil rights and civil liberties organizations in an effort to add “four little words” to the list of categories protected under the state’s civil rights statute: sexual orientation and gender identity. So far, the legislature has exhibited zero interest in doing so.
I still remember a discussion in my undergraduate Law and Policy class a few years ago–at a time when the state was embroiled in debate over Mike Pence’s infamous effort to ensure that Hoosiers have the “religious freedom” to discriminate against their LGBTQ neighbors. An African-American student was stunned to learn that, in Indiana, an employer could legally fire someone simply for being gay.
Shaking her head, she said “Black people often don’t get justice, but at least there’s a law on the books! At least there’s an official position that discrimination against us is wrong!”
The public outrage over Pence’s RFRA led to a subsequent “clarification” (cough cough) that the measure would not override provisions of local Human Rights Ordinances that do proscribe discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A number of city councils around the state promptly added those protections to their Ordinances, which was gratifying.
The problem, as the research points out, is twofold: municipal ordinances in Indiana don’t have much in the way of “teeth.” They are more symbolic than legally effective. Worse, for LGBTQ folks who don’t live in one of those municipalities, there are no protections at all.
The result: Only 36% of Indiana’s workforce is covered by local non-discrimination laws or executive orders that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And that discrimination occurs with depressing regularity.
– In response to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 75 percent of respondents from Indiana reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment at work, 30 percent reported losing a job, 21 percent reported being denied a promotion, and 48% reported not being hired because of their gender identity or expression at some point in their lives.
– Several recent instances of employment discrimination against LGBT people in Indiana have been documented in court cases and administrative complaints, including reports from public and private sector workers.
– Census data show that in Indiana, the median income of men in same-sex couples is 34 percent lower than that of men married to different-sex partners.
– Aggregated data from two large public opinion polls found that 79 percent of Indiana residents think that LGBT people experience a moderate amount to a lot of discrimination in the state.
Four little words. Why is that so hard?