Religious freedom may continue to have limited protections as lawmakers in Indiana consider special protections for homosexuals.
Senate Bill 344 has passed out of committee and will go to the full Senate for a vote. The legislation would add sexual orientation as a special protected class. Joshua Denton of the Indiana Family Institute tells OneNewsNow neither side of the debate is happy with the measure.
"It's a dangerous thing to go down [this path] whenever you are elevating sexual behavior or elevating that to a protected status at the cost of religious freedom, obviously," Denton states. "A lot of religious conservatives dislike it."
As do homosexual activists, who complain it doesn't go far enough – including the fact that it doesn't include protections for the transgendered who have a mental condition called "gender dysphoria" that lends itself well to counseling.
According to Denton, people of faith are at risk if the bill passes.
"In many applications, Senate Bill 344 will violate the free exercise of religion and free-speech guarantees of both the United States and Indiana constitutions," he explains. "The state will have to defend against those legal challenges" – an effort he argues would be costly and time-consuming for the state as well as for small businesses that cannot afford to fight against discrimination lawsuits.
Another bill (Senate Bill 66) was submitted to provide strengthened protections for religious liberty, but it failed to emerge from committee by one vote. It would have repealed last year's "fix" to the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Denton says the demise of S.B. 66 was expected.