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Family values groups’ human rights lawsuit stays in court

November 30, 2016

A Hamilton County judge has ruled that a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of human rights ordinances in four Indiana cities can continue, despite the cities’ arguments that there was no legal standing to bring the suit in court.

Hamilton Superior Judge Steve Nation on Nov. 16 denied almost all of the motions the cities of Carmel, Indianapolis, Bloomington and Columbus filed to dismiss a lawsuit brought against them and their human rights ordinances by the Indiana Family Institute Inc., Indiana Family Action Inc. and the American Family Association of Indiana Inc. The three conservative family values organizations argue in their complaint that the human rights ordinances in each of the four cities, which all provide protections against LGBT discrimination, are unconstitutional and substantially burden the organizations’ religious freedom by preventing them from hosting pro-traditional-marriage events in the cities.

Terre Haute attorney Jim Bopp of the Bopp Law Firm argued before Nation on Nov. 2 that the “fix” to the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act was unconstitutional because it prohibits LGBT discrimination unless a person or organization is affiliated with a church or a member of the clergy. With the fix in place, Bopp said the family values groups have no legal protection against the human rights ordinances, which he said would require the organizations to allow same-sex-marriage advocates to participate in their traditional-marriage programming.

But counsel for the four cities told Nation at the hearing that the three organizations had not yet been negatively impacted by the ordinances and, thus, had no legal standing to bring their case. Further, the cities told Nation that because there had been no actual injury to IFI, IFA or AFA, the case was not ripe for judgment.

Specifically, the four cities, which all presented similar arguments, argued that the case should be dismissed on the basis of Indiana Trial Rules 8, 12(B)(1), 12(B)(6) and 19(A). Nation denied all motions for dismissal under Rules 8 and 12(B)(1).

However, the Hamilton County judge did dismiss IFI and IFA’s claims against the city of Indianapolis under 12(B)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. All other 12(B)(6) motions were denied.

Nation also granted the motions to dismiss under 19(A), writing that Bopp and the plaintiffs had 20 days to file a second amended complaint adding the state of Indiana or the appropriate state officials as a party. The cities had argued that Republican Attorney General Greg Zoeller should have been included as a party to the suit, but Bopp said the state had the option of joining the complaint and declined.

Additionally, the individual members of the Indianapolis-Marion County Equal Opportunity Advisory Board, Bloomington Human Rights Commission and Columbus Human Rights Commission, who are named as defendants solely in their official capacities, were dismissed from the suit. However, motions to dismiss the Bloomington and Columbus human rights commissions were denied.

Attorneys for all four cities declined to comment on Nation’s order. However, Andy Mallon, corporation counsel for the city of Indianapolis, did say that the city would continue on its mission of being open to all people.

“Mayor (Joe) Hogsett has made clear that he fully intends to do all he can to preserve and protect our commitment to being a welcoming and inclusive city for all,” Mallon said.

Bopp did not respond to requests seeking comment on Nation’s order.•

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