'High priority to achieve basic equality': Here's how Indiana ranks for LGBTQ+ equality

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With temperatures below freezing, Caitlin Krater arrived at the Indiana Statehouse in support of transgender rights Monday morning.

“I always show up as I'm able,” Krater says, and like other advocates fighting for LGBTQ+ equality, she is used to showing up — both because of her own personal commitment and because of Indiana's political landscape.

“Especially in Indianapolis, there are a lot of different fights that we have to show up for,” Krater said, just before lawmakers voted on House Bill 1041, which would ban trans girls from playing on girls sports’ teams in school.

“I think that we're here to remind you that these (bills) impact real lives and a lot of lives.”

The bill passed 8-4 in the House education committee, and dozens of people erupted in outrage, some shouting “f*** y'all” and “shame on you.”

Statehouse coverage: Indiana lawmakers move forward with bill banning transgender girls from girls sports

The bill now moves to the House floor, with statewide advocates and national organizations, from the ACLU to GLAAD, all watching what happens next. The moment is tense, as seen in the Statehouse, but the fight for equality is all too familiar for Indiana advocates. A new report shows that while more than half the country is advancing protections and equality for LGBTQ+ people, Hoosiers are still focused on achieving “basic” equality.

In the recently released “State Equality Index” created by the Human Rights Campaign and Equality Federation Institute, Indiana ranks on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to LGBTQ+ equality.

Each year, the advocacy organizations analyze statewide laws relating to LGBTQ+ people, from parenting policies to hate crime protection, and they rank states across four categories: working toward innovative equality, solidifying equality, building equality and high priority to achieve basic equality.

In 2021, the highest-ranked states “working towards innovative equality,” included California and New York, and they already have “a broad range of protections to ensure equality for LGBTQ+ people.”

Indiana is one of 22 states that falls under the “high priority to achieve basic equality” category, the report says, so there is a long way to go for basic equality, such as non-discrimination protections in employment, housing and public accommodations.

“I'm not surprised, unfortunately,” Krater said. “There's just been so many things over the years that we've been ranking really poorly in … Definitely as a state that says that it works … as citizens want to be taken care of a little bit more. We want things to work.”

The Index looked at statewide legislation relating to a variety of areas, including relationship recognition, religious refusal, parenting, hate crimes and health. Overall, across the country, 46 “pro-equality” laws were passed in 2021, but HRC notes that it was a “historically bad year” for LGBTQ+ people, especially those in the trans community.

The findings reveal “how over a dozen states across the country led an intentional, coordinated attack on the transgender community, particularly children," JoDee Winterhof, HRC senior vice president of policy and political affairs, said in a statement.

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Demonstrators protest House Bill 1041 during a "Protect Trans Youth" rally Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. Eight Republicans on the House education committee voted in favor of the bill, which prohibits transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams. Originally, the bill applied to sports at both the K-12 and collegiate level, but it was amended Monday to take out language regarding post-secondary institutions.
Demonstrators protest House Bill 1041 during a "Protect Trans Youth" rally Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, at the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis. Eight Republicans on the House education committee voted in favor of the bill, which prohibits transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams. Originally, the bill applied to sports at both the K-12 and collegiate level, but it was amended Monday to take out language regarding post-secondary institutions.

In Indiana, there were no bills against trans rights signed last year, but the report notes the lack of other protections across the state. For instance, there are no statewide laws protecting people from discrimination in employment, housing or education, relating to both sexual orientation and gender identity. There are also no laws to address LGBTQ youth homelessness or to protect kids from conversion therapy.

In 2019, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a historic hate crimes bill giving Hoosiers specific hate crimes protections, but the legislation drew widespread criticism because it did not include gender or gender identity.

This session, lawmakers have proposed at least half a dozen bills potentially impacting trans people. In addition to school sports, lawmakers have also proposed banning gender affirming medical care for minors, under House Bill 34, and limiting which bathrooms trans people could use, under House Bill 1348.

If HB 1041 passes, banning trans students from playing sports, Indiana would become the 11th state with such a policy in place.

People like Krater and Stardust Adita, with GenderNexus, say they will continue to show up and fight.

“You have to,” Adita said Monday, before the HB 1041 vote. “It's almost like a charge forward. You have to charge forward.”

IndyStar reporters Arika Herron and Kaitlin Lange contributed to this report.

Contact Rashika Jaipuriar at rjaipuriar@gannett.com and follow her on Twitter @rashikajpr.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: LGBTQ laws: How Indiana ranks in the 2021 State Equality Index

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