Senior staff writer
Beech Grove stands as a municipality that is “intolerant of discrimination of any kind” with Monday night’s proclamation by Mayor Dennis Buckley at the City Council meeting.
Beech Grove becomes the 11th city in Indiana to declare itself as an “inclusive city.”
In front of the council, Buckley read the proclamation that the city is inclusive and is “proud of its growing diversity, intolerant of any discrimination of any kind and desires that all persons residing in the city of Beech Grove adhere to the core values of equality, tolerance, human dignity, diversity and inclusiveness so that we can continue to grow as a city.”
The proclamation also states that no individual should be “discriminated against by another individual based upon the individual’s sex, race, color, national origin, religion, disability, age or sexual orientation.”
The city’s proclamation comes on the heels of a massive national debate over Indiana’s controversial passage and revision of its Religious Freedom Restoration Act by the General Assembly. According to legal experts, the state’s revision forbids discrimination by businesses based on gender identity.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard issued an executive order March 30 that protects the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender society against any discrimination and declared the city as a welcoming municipality. His order also asked the General Assembly to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in state law.
“For the first time in Indiana at the state level, employment and housing protections are being proposed based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Ballard. “This is a positive step and a more accurate representation of the Hoosier Hospitality that defines Indianapolis and Indiana.”
Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said he was pleased with the legislature’s clarification of RFRA and the importance of economic development and cultivating a pro-business atmosphere throughout Indiana.
The House and Senate voted to approve an RFRA revision April 2. In the Senate, Southsiders Pat Miller and Greg Walker voted with the majority while Brent Waltz, a co-author of Senate Bill 101, cast a nay vote.
Speaking from the Senate floor, Waltz urged senators to delay any revisions until a full review of the societal and legal ramifications of furthering the law could be discussed.
Waltz re-emphasized that the original language of Indiana’s RFRA did not allow.
“When we quit caring about what is true, then people telling the most outrageous statements and the loudest voices win; and that’s not what we are about,” Waltz stated. “What is extremely frustrating to me is how some businesses are using the controversy to score cheap points at Indiana’s expense.”
The original law never was about discrimination, Waltz contended, but the focus always was on the protection of religious freedom in Indiana. “I hope those who have been perpetuating these unfortunate mistruths about our state will stop doing it. The unfortunate fantasy of so-called Hoosier bigotry is ridiculous, and it really needs to stop.”
In the House, Southsiders Woody Burton, Dave Frizzell, Cindy Kirkhhofer and John Price voted with the majority.
“I supported the amendment since it seemed to satisfy all parties,” Kirkhhofer said. “In my opinion, having national and international media portray our state in such a negative light caused irreparable harm.” The legislator from Beech Grove also said adding the protective language did not bolster or weaken the bill. “The intent of the bill was never discrimination.”