INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis mayor candidate and state Sen. Jim Merritt has faced controversy this week surrounding his decision to walk in the Indy Pride parade.
After much back and forth on whether he would even be welcomed, Merritt has decided to sit it out.
Merritt’s previous votes in the General Assembly that did not support the LGBTQ+ community is what generated concerns with his involvement in Saturday morning’s Cadillac Barbie Indy Pride Parade.
Merritt to sit out of Indy Pride parade after controversy
As for his claims of now being a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, Indy Pride is saying actions speak louder than words.
“This is Indy Pride’s celebration. I don’t want to be a distraction, I don’t want to dampen it for them. Therefore, I will not be marching in the Pride Parade on Saturday,” Merritt said Thursday.
“I will tell you that I do regret my initial vote for RFRA (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) in 2015,” Merritt said.
He said he was voting for ” religious freedom.”
There was also another controversial vote in 2014 that he chose not to address.
Asked “Do you have any comments on your vote in 2014 to ban gay marriage?” Merritt responded, “I’m going to stick with the statement.”
Indy Pride Executive Director Chris Handberg said he sat down with Merritt and his campaign to discuss the hurt that Merritt has put on the LGBTQ+ community.
“I am very happy that he has chose to respect our community and not participate in the parade,” Handberg said.
Merritt made promises that moving forward he would vote to protect all groups including the LGBTQ+ community and would work to put them in city leadership positions.
“I think it was a great first step and I know he will have to spend many years proving what he said today,” Handberg said.
“They are right to say ‘show me,'” Merritt said.
Current Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett responded to Merritt’s comments and said he looks forward to attending the parade for the fifth year in a row.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett:
“As has been reported, it appears Senator Jim Merritt will be holding a press availability this morning to explain his views on LGBTQ+ rights. Over the last few days, the Senator has been repeatedly asked whether he regrets votes he has taken over his 29-year history in the Indiana General Assembly – and he has repeatedly refused to answer to specific votes, after stating on multiple occasions that he stands by each and every one.
“I thought it might be helpful to share some of the more egregious examples of intolerance that Senator Merritt will hopefully address today:
“In 2012, Senator Merritt drafted the letter requesting that the BMV revoke the Indiana Youth Group’s specialty license plates. These license plates are used by the organization to help raise funds for wellness programming and to help LGBTQ+ youth.
“In 2014, Merritt voted to ban same-sex marriage in Indiana. He supported adding this to our state’s constitution.
“In 2015, Merritt voted for RFRA, the now-infamous legislation that aimed to legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, cost our state millions in lost revenue, and embarrassed Indiana on a national scale.
“Up until he flip-flopped on the issue this year, Merritt never supported hate crimes legislation in his 29 years as a state legislator. He voted for a watered-down bill this year, which failed to include protections for the LGBTQ+ community.
“Thank you all. I’m looking forward to seeing some of you at Saturday’s parade.”