Bloomington sued for RFRA violations

The City of Bloomington and the Bloomington Human Rights Commission are being sued for violating the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In a complaint filed January 26, various “ideologically-conservative” groups allege that the Bloomington human rights ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity, violates their constitutional rights as well as RFRA as it was originally enacted.

The groups also contend that an amendment 
legislators added to RFRA last year — a legislative fix intended to prevent individuals and businesses from using religious beliefs as a means to discriminate — is unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs in the case are the Indiana Family Institute, Inc., Indiana Family Action, Inc. and the American Family Association Inc.

They allege the RFRA amendment violates their constitutional rights at the state and federal level. They list equal-rights protections, freedom of speech and religious-liberty protections as some of the rights violated by the exceptions made in the amendment.

The plaintiffs argue the protections provided by RFRA as it was originally enacted are constitutional protections and thus need to be upheld.

Because of this belief, the plaintiffs allege that the Bloomington human rights ordinance violates both their constitutional rights and RFRA as it was originally enacted.

This interpretation of right to freedom of religion would allow the groups to exclude LGBT hoosiers.

Bloomington is not the only municipality involved in the case. Indianapolis, Carmel and Columbus are also being sued for their local 
human rights ordinances.

The Bopp Law Firm in Terre Haute is representing the conservative nonprofits.

One specific example of what the plaintiffs have cited as a violation of their rights is the Indiana Family Institute and Indiana Family Action cannot currently offer programs in Bloomington because they “would not allow same-sex married couples that do not uphold the biblical teaching on marriage and human sexuality into their programs,” according to the court filing.

They will also not employ anyone who violates those same “biblical teachings.”

On Monday, Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton responded to the lawsuit filing.

“The City of Bloomington has a long-standing commitment to equal opportunity and diversity,” Hamilton said in a press release. “This commitment was written into law as far back as 1965 when the Common Council created a Human Relations Commission, and that commitment continues to this day.”

Hamilton went on to express his pride that Bloomington was the only city in the state to receive a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index in 2015. He described the lawsuit as “meritless.”

Bloomington Communications Director Mary Catherine Carmichael reiterated the mayor’s sentiments.

“We’re very proud of our Human Rights Ordinance, and the mayor is completely supporting our Human Rights Commission and all the work they’ve done,” Carmichael said.

Though she said the city hasn’t had time to fully determine the process of fighting the suit, she expressed her frustration that it had been filed.

“It will be an unfortunate waste of money and resources to defend ourselves against what we think is a frivolous lawsuit,” she said.

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