INDIANAPOLIS - Gay-rights advocates hope to parlay the momentum from their legislative victories in Indiana and Arkansas last week into further expanding legal protections for gays and lesbians in those states and others.
Facing widespread pressure, including from big businesses such as Apple and Walmart, lawmakers in Indiana and Arkansas tweaked their states' new religious-objections laws, which critics said could be used to discriminate against gays. Amid the uproar, the Republican governors of Michigan and North Dakota urged their own legislatures to extend antidiscrimination protections to gays.
Twenty-nine states don't include protections for gays and lesbians in their nondiscrimination laws, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. But the Indiana and Arkansas laws, along with court rulings or legislatures legalizing same-sex marriage in 37 states and an expected U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage this year are fueling efforts to change that as the 2016 elections approach.
"We're not going to let any of these people off the hot seat," said Kathy Sarris, cofounder of Indiana Equality Action.
Hundreds of people calling for Indiana to add protections for gays and lesbians to state civil rights laws marched through downtown Indianapolis on Saturday, drawing the attention of fans attending the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.
They chanted "No more Band-Aids masking hate," before walking several blocks to Lucas Oil Stadium, site of the NCAA men's championship semifinal and final games.
Arkansas State Rep. Warwick Sabin, a Democrat from Little Rock, said the issue wasn't going away.
"Other states are moving ahead of us and Arkansas is being left in the dust. We need to make an affirmative statement about our values as a state, and I know that the vast majority of Arkansans believe in fairness and opportunity for all of its citizens," he said.