Carmel City Council passes anti-discrimination ordinance in 4-3 vote

The city of Carmel passed an anti-discrimination ordinance Monday night expanding protections to people based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

The controversial ordinance passed in a 4-3 vote after several hours of public testimony. That was on top of the hours of testimony council members had already heard at previous meetings.

The ordinance was supported by LGBT-rights activists and business leaders, who say it was necessary to reaffirm Carmel's commitment to preventing discrimination in the wake of the statewide RFRA debate.

The ordinance also drew high-profile opponents, including influential statehouse lobbyists like Indiana Family Institute President Curt Smith and Eric Miller of Advance America – both key supporters of the state's original RFRA law.

The ordinance was ultimately approved with supportive votes from Council President Rick Sharp and Councilors Ron Carter, Carol Schelif and Sue Finkam. Councilors Eric Seidensticker, Kevin Rider and Luci Snyder opposed the ordinance.

The ordinance includes an amendment allowing a warning in the case of a first offense by a business. Whether or not to issue or warning or administer a stiffer penalty for the first offense would be at the discretion of the city attorney.

Freedom Indiana, a statewide LGBT rights organization, was in favor of the ordinance. 

"We applaud Carmel for passing a human rights ordinance that protects gay and transgender people and makes it clear that the city is open for business and open to everyone, Chris Paulsen, campaign manager, said. "The conversation about this ordinance spanned several months and included many different ideas. That's a good thing, and we look forward to having that debate at the Statehouse in the upcoming session."

The city becomes the latest in Indiana to pass an expanded civil rights ordinance adding gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes. Last month, Columbus' all-Republican city council passed a similar ordinance unanimously.

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