Indiana has limited statewide non-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, with no explicit protections for discrimination based on housing and public accommodations, and no explicit employment protections for transgender people. An April 2017 ruling from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that discrimination based on sexual orientation is outlawed under a federal law prohibiting “sex discrimination.”
In April 2017 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Indiana, ruled that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, which outlaws employment discrimination based on sex. The decision, and the defendants’ decision not to appeal the ruling, immediately brought employment protections to gay, lesbian, and bisexual Hoosiers. It also underlined the urgency of why comprehensive non-discrimination protections in Indiana are so vital, now that the state has a patchwork of unequal protections.
Support for comprehensive non-discrimination protections was heightened following the passage of the so-called “Religious Freedom” bill in the Spring of 2015. The bill, which was signed into law by then-Governor Mike Pence, led to an enormous outcry, including from some of the state’s largest employers and the Republican mayor of Indiana’s largest city. The law was ultimately amended, but the legislature stopped well short of protecting LGBT people in Indiana from discrimination.
Now, advocates and major businesses across the state are supporting Indiana residents working to pass local non-discrimination ordinances in their towns, cities and counties to build momentum for the statewide bill.
History of Non-Discrimination Protections:
- March 9, 1961: The Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) is founded, to investigate, resolve and prevent discrimination on the basis of race in the areas of employment, education, and public accommodations. The Fair Employment Practices Act is passed.
- March 9, 1965: Housing is added to the scope of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission’s responsibilities. The Fair Employment Practices Act is updated several times over the next decade, including adding gender as a protected class in 1971 and people with disabilities as a protected class in 1975.
- July 8, 1993: Monroe County and Bloomington pass a local ordinance extending protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Several other cities and counties throughout Indiana pass local ordinances protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The local ordinances build momentum toward statewide legislation.
- 1993-2004: Local and national organizations engage in conversations about who LGBT Hoosiers are, and support for fully comprehensive non-discrimination grows.
- August 2004: Gov. Joseph Kernan issues an Indiana State Government Employment Policy Statement protecting state employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
- April 26, 2005: Gov. Mitch Daniels issues a Governor’s Policy Statement, which reiterates the protections in Gov. Kernan’s policy.
- January 11, 2006: Indianapolis, the largest city in Indiana, becomes the first municipality in the state to protect people from discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. In the following years, many other cities and counties do the same.
- March 26, 2015: Gov. Mike Pence signs the discriminatory so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” into law, which allows individuals and businesses the ability to discriminate against LGBT individuals. The legislation leads to enormous national criticism, with hundreds of voices decrying the legislation and its potential impact on Indiana’s economic future.
- April 2, 2015: Following tremendous pressure from local, regional, and national voices, Gov. Mike Pence signs legislation significantly limiting the ways that RFRA could be used to discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers in employment, housing, and public spaces. Advocates in Indiana vow to continue pushing until LGBT people statewide are protected from discrimination by state law.
- April 4, 2017: The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issues a historic en banc ruling in favor of Kimberly Hively, who was fired from her job in Indiana because she was seen kissing her girlfriend. In its 8-3 ruling on the case, brought forward by Lambda Legal, the court stated that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is the first time a federal appellate court has reached this conclusion. The defendants do not appeal the ruling, immediately protecting Hoosiers from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, a landmark victory.
Municipalities with Non-Discrimination Protections:
The following municipalities protect people from discrimination in employment on the basis of their sexual orientation:
- City of Fort Wayne
- City of Lafayette
- Michigan City
- City of Whitestown
- Tippecanoe County
The following municipalities protect people from discrimination in employment on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression:
- City of Bloomington
- City of Carmel
- City of Columbus
- City of Evansville
- City of Indianapolis
- City of New Albany
- City of South Bend
- City of West Lafayette
- City of Terre Haute
- City of Zionsville
- City of Columbus
- Marion County
- Monroe County
Businesses Leading the Charge Against Discrimination:
Before, after, and during the 2015 RFRA controversy, dozens of businesses have spoken out in support of statewide non-discrimination protections for LGBT Hoosiers. More than 5,000 small and medium-size businesses have joined the Open for Service coalition, which was organized in response to RFRA by businesses who wanted to state publicly that all Hoosiers were welcome in their space.
In 2015, Indiana business leaders launched Indiana Competes, a coalition working to pass non-discrimination legislation that protects all Hoosiers from discrimination in Indiana.
Last Updated February 7, 2018
In April of 2015 a public poll found that a solid majority – 54% – of people in Indiana support adding protections for LGBT people to the state’s non-discrimination laws.
Again, in June of 2015, the same 54% support for non-discrimination protections is reflected in another public poll.
In March 2015, Gov. Pence signed the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) despite outcry from major Indiana employers and thousands of Hoosiers. Another April 2015 poll showed that an overwhelming 75% majority of Indiana voters thought the law and controversy surrounding it were “…bad for Indiana businesses and the economy.”
That same poll found that a strong majority – 62% – of Hoosiers agreed that businesses should not be allowed to refuse service to customers because they are gay or transgender.
J.A.W. v. Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp
Case Concerning Restroom Access for Transgender StudentsKey Date: January 8, 2020 • Pre-Trial Conference Set
Status: Pending before District Court
Legal Team: ACLU of Indiana
Type: Discrimination Targeting Transgender Students
The school district is refusing to respect the gender identity of transgender students, including a young transgender male, J.A.W. Since Indiana is in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which recently ruled that discriminating against transgender students violates Title IX of the Education Amendments, the school must comply with the student's request.Read More