INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA has thrown its considerable heft behind efforts to get Indiana lawmakers to add LGBT civil rights protections into state law, announcing Wednesday that it joined a coalition of businesses that is pushing for the change.
"The NCAA national office in Indianapolis supports making Indiana a welcoming and inclusive place for people to work, live and enjoy," Bernard Franklin, NCAA chief inclusion officer, said in a statement. He added that the NCAA was "proud" to join the group Indiana Competes to help "establish fair and equitable policies for all."
Indiana currently doesn't offer statewide protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation. Indiana Competes has warned that inaction on the matter by Republican Gov. Mike Pence and the GOP-controlled Legislature will harm the state's ability to attract talent and business. Thus far, the group has rallied more than 300 large and small businesses to the effort, including Eli Lilly and Co., Cummins, AT&T and Anthem.
The issue of expanding civil rights protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people has dogged state lawmakers since a national uproar last spring over the a divisive religious objections law, which some said could sanction discrimination against LGBT people.
The law was changed amid the unrest. But in the aftermath, business groups and other supporters of gay and lesbian rights have pushed for a statewide ban on discrimination. Religious conservatives, however, object because they believe it could force Christian businesses owners to violate sincerely held religious beliefs.
Pence's office did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday on the NCAA's statement, and an NCAA spokeswoman declined to offer further comment.
For months Pence has refused to say where he stands on the issue, saying he is "studying" the matter and speaking with people across the state.
Republican leaders in the state Senate have proposed adding LGBT civil rights to state law with broad religious exemptions, though the measure does not address the use of public bathrooms by transgendered people — a charged issue that has emerged in pockets across the U.S.
"Where's Mike Pence?" said Indiana Democratic Party spokesman Drew Anderson. "It's been 147 days, and he's still 'studying' the commonsense idea of across the board protections for the LGBT community."