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Indiana’s first female majority caucus compiles legislation, celebrates suffrage



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Members of the Indiana House Democratic Caucus stand in the State House. Female caucus members created a list of bills that introduced policies that relate to women in honor of the 100th anniversary of women being allowed to vote.  Courtesy Photo

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in 1920, the women of the Indiana House Democratic Caucus introduced a collection of bills Jan. 16 to the Indiana General Assembly.

The Indiana House Democratic Caucus is the first majority female caucus in Indiana history, said Representative Carey Hamilton, who is one of the 17 women that make up that majority.

“Legislative bodies were meant to be representative,” Hamilton said. “Until you have 51% it is not representative.” 

Only two of the 13 bills have been signed into law, and the others have either died in committee or are unlikely to receive a hearing, said Kate Oehl, communications director for the Indiana House Democratic Office.

The bills covered subjects such as equal pay, birth control, domestic violence and pregnancy rights, according to a press release. One of the passed bills, sponsored by Rep. Klinker, sets greater consequences for nonconsensual pornography. Rep. Pfaff, Rep. Sullivan and Rep. Moed co-authored a passed House Bill that helps low income families have better access to high quality pre-K care.

“A lot of the time the things that affect women also affect their families,” Oehl said.

Indiana has four caucuses, Democratic and Republican caucuses for the Indiana House of Representatives and for the Indiana Senate. The Indiana House of Representatives has 33 members who are responsible for proposing new laws and signing off on law proposals to grant them hearings.

The purpose behind compiling these bills was to show women in Indiana that the legislators representing them are working toward taking ideas and putting them into law, Oehl said. The caucus plans to continue pushing and promoting legislation that will help women in Indiana live better lives. 

People of diverse race and genders being in positions of power is good for creating legislation, said IU political science professor Eileen Braman.

“They live in the skin of people who are impacted by the policies,” said Braman.

Even with this majority caucus, the state is still lagging behind some of the others, Braman said. Statistics from 2019 released by the National Conference of State Legislatures show that the average percentage of women in legislative bodies across the United States is 28.9%, but Indiana only has 24%.

“When you have women representing women, they better understand the issues that women in Indiana face,” Oehl said.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the name of the Indiana House Democratic Caucus. The IDS regrets this error.

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