Our 2019 session came to an end on Wednesday, April 24, and we want you to know the Indiana Senate Democrats stand with our LGBTQ+ Hoosiers and will make your voices heard in the legislature. While this session may have been discouraging in terms of pushing Indiana forward, we ardently fought for legislation to protect our state’s LGBTQ+ community.
Prohibiting discrimination in schools
We have seen multiple, devastating cases throughout Indiana of dedicated educators being let go simply because their lifestyle does not fall in line with the cisgender, straight norm. In response to this blatant discrimination, Senator J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) authored legislation that would have prohibited schools that receive state funds from discriminating against its teachers, staff and students based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Our Hoosier students thrive when taught in diverse environments, and we will continue to work to keep our schools a place of inclusion.
Banning conversion therapy
Conversion therapy is commonly used to manipulate or change a person’s sexual orientation, but your Indiana Senate Democrats understand that a person’s sexual orientation is not a choice and shouldn’t be treated like one. Senator Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) drafted legislation to prohibit mental health professions from using conversation therapy on any child under the age of 18.
Homeless children and youth
Unfortunately, homelessness is a reality for many LGBTQ+ children as they come out to those around them and discover their sexuality. A University of Chicago study found that LGBTQ+ youth are 120 percent more at risk to experience homelessness than their non-LGBTQ peers. Another study by the non-profit True Colors United found that LGBTQ+ youth comprise 40 percent of all adolescents that experience homelessness, even though they are only seven percent of the total youth population. In response to these alarming rates, Senator J.D. Ford co-authored legislation to make it easier for homeless youth to access driver’s licenses, identification cards and education. This bill was signed into law and will expand parental consent requirements to include those of the child’s chosen family or chosen representative.
Not only did we craft legislation with LGBTQ+ Hoosiers in mind, but we made sure you were present in all steps of the process.
Senator Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) has been spearheading the push to create a comprehensive and inclusive bias crimes law for 6 years now, and this session he continued the fight for such legislation. As the debate unfolded it was apparent that the protection for gender identity and sexual orientation was a point of concern for Statehouse Republicans. However, the Senate Democrats walked off the Senate floor and voted against all watered-down attempts at hate crimes legislation because they did not include adequate protections for our LGBTQ+ Hoosiers. We stand firm in our belief that laws must protect all, not just a chosen few.
Gender markers on driver’s licenses
Senator Eddie Melton (D-Gary) crafted practical legislation that would have allowed the development of a mobile driver’s license to drive Indiana forward in this ever growing digital age. However, when the bill was reviewed by the House of Representatives, it was amended into an attack that would have made it harder for transgender Hoosiers to switch their gender marker on their driver’s license. The Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus did not sit idly by and let this happen, instead we killed the bill to protect our transgender Hoosiers rights.
As well as crafting legislation with our LGBTQ+ Hoosiers in mind, one of our greatest moments of the 2019 session was the confirmation of Senator J.D. Ford as the first openly gay Senator in Indiana’s history. Not only does this open the field for more LGBTQ Hoosiers to take office, but it helps bring the Indiana Senate Democrats one step closer to truly understanding the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. Senator Ford was also chosen to be a Grand Marshal at the 2019 Indianapolis Pride Parade this year and is moving Indiana in a direction of equality, empathy and inclusivity.