License to Discriminate- RFRA

30 03 2015

rfra signingThis week there has been a tsunami of media attention on the state of Indiana. But not the good kind. No, the Final Four is still days away; Gen Con is months away (and apparently stuck in a 5 year contract to stay here); yet the streets are filled with people who are all riled up. We are getting national attention, not for any of the major events that Indianapolis hosts every year, but for good ole’ fashioned Hoosier discrimination.

On Thursday, Governor Mike Pence signed into law a bill titled the ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act.’ This bill has been highly criticized for legalizing discrimination against all gay people who live in, work in, or visit the state of Indiana. In advance of Pence’s private ceremony to sign the new law onto the books, multiple major Indiana companies stated their clear opposition to this, citing its discriminatory nature, and how it would hurt their ability to conduct business and recruit new talent to live in a state with this environment.

Salesforce-300x251Companies like Eli Lilly, Cummins, and the Indy Chamber were vocal about their opposition. Since Pence made the RFRA law, hundreds of others, nationwide, have raised their voices, and the repercussions of the RFRA are just starting to swell. Gen Con has threatened to relocate their massive annual convention. Angie’s List has cancelled plans for their $40M expansion, which means 1000 Indiana jobs lost. The Mayor of San Francisco has banned any business travel to our state. And CEOs of major corporations like Salesforce and Apple are publicly shunning us for our step backwards into the previous century.

Glaad1Social media has been blowing up over this, with people trying to understand the true implications of this law. Pence denies that the bill has anything to do with gay people, despite the anti-gay collaborators that stood close by his side during the private signing ceremony on March 26th, 2015.

I’ve found myself repeatedly clarifying details on post, after repost. In fact, I’ve even created this handy flow chart to help clarify what the RFRA law now allows.

Indiana Discrimination flow chart

Here’s the deal:

It’s not about gay wedding cakes. Yes, there have been some highly publicized lawsuits in the news where bakers discriminate against gay couples because they refuse to bake them a cake. And, no, I wouldn’t want them baking my cake anyways. I’d much rather have my deserts baked with LOVE, not hate. The same bakery probably refuses to bake cakes for interracial couples too.

rfra mapIt’s not about the RFRA. This is only a symptom of a larger problem. The reality is, this religious freedom law allows anyone to refuse services to anybody based on conflicts with their personal religion. in theory, this would mean that I could refuse to sell coffee to a Jew, because I’m Christian. Or deny childcare to a woman because she’s wearing pants, which is not allowed in the Mormon church. And why not kick out the veteran who is missing his legs, because it’s scaring the children in my diner, and that goes against my beliefs too? The problem is, THOSE acts, while technically allowed by the RFRA, are DISALLOWED by the state constitution’s Civil Rights rules.

But other states have it too, right? Sure, but here’s the difference: Most of those other states enacted these RFRA-eque laws in 1993 or soon thereafter. BUT, most of those states have also amended the civil rights definitions to include sexual orientation, protecting LGB citizens from discrimination.

We MUST amend the State’s Civil Rights definition. Indiana’s Civil Rights language identifies protected classes, in order to prevent discrimination. However, at least in this state, there is a gaping hole where ‘sexual orientation’ belongs, which enables discrimination.

It is the public policy of the state to provide all of its citizens equal opportunity for education, employment, access to public conveniences and accommodations, and acquisition through purchase or rental of real property, including but not limited to housing, and to eliminate segregation or separation based solely on race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin or ancestry, since such segregation is an impediment to equal opportunity. Equal education and employment opportunities and equal access to and use of public accommodations and equal opportunity for acquisition of real property are hereby declared to be civil rights.

6a00d83451c45669e2016766065729970b-550wiSo, despite my religious freedom, I STILL cannot discriminate or deny service to anybody on the basis of those characteristics identified in the civil rights language. The only group excluded is LGBTQ. And THAT is why this law is being interpreted as specifically targeting this group. In an interview on ABC last weekend, Pence refused to address the civil rights definition. And so we stand, united to fight against this law. Determined to claw our way back to the 21st century.

round_car_magnetThe Irony? Pence is marketing the State of Indiana with the slogan of “Open for Business.” Yet his actions are driving companies away, generating a significant negative impact statewide. Both individuals and companies are boycotting Indiana, which harms even those businesses and communities that adamantly opposed the RFRA. It hurts all of us, and especially Indianapolis. I am fearful of the long-term effect that this will have on my local economy, and can only hope for enough upheaval to drive permanent change in our government, before I am driven to move someplace else.

Here in Indiana, we are working hard to repeal this discriminatory law. It won’t be easy. In the meantime, we are finding ways to show that Pence does not represent our entire state. Shop where you KNOW businesses aren’t bigots.

THE SOLUTION! The next steps MUST include an amendment to our Civil Rights protection clause. I am working with my district representative, my employer, and Indy Chamber to rally support for a bill to fix this problem, once and for all. Indianapolis’ Mayor Ballard is in full support of this long-awaited change! Our anti-discrimination language must be more robust to protect those who are discriminated against. We need to change this:

“race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disabilities, ancestry”

to something more along the lines of this (courtesy of Purdue University):

“on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, genetic information, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, or status as a veteran.”

Call or email your representative today to ask for change.


Post-‘Gay Marriage’: It’s Time to Shift Our Focus Towards the End of the Alphabet Soup

10 03 2015



Years of ‘Gay Marriage’ are Coming to an End

11037826_815847141831245_4294115214104965769_nThis year- 2015- is a really, really amazing year to be gay. Over the past 24 months, I’ve watched gleefully as unconstitutional bans on gay marriage have been toppling like dominoes, leaving a trail of joyful tears as hundreds of loving couples lined up outside courthouses to finally have their commitment legalized.


It’s not been an easy path to get here. Hundreds of remarkable, brave men and women have laid down their lives to stand up for my rights. We aren’t there just yet. In April, the Supreme Court is going to convene to consider whether individual states should be allowed to continue withholding legal marriage to their gay residents, also refusing to recognize those married legally elsewhere. We couldn’t have done this even 10 years ago. However, in the past 10 years, there has been an overwhelming and rapid reversal in public opinion polls on the issue of gay marriage. Now that more gay people are more visible, more straight people are realizing that they actually know someone who is gay. Poof! We have demystified the scary ‘unknown,’ just by being nice, normal, friendly people (who happen to be also gay).


(As a side note: I prefer to simplify life, using ‘gay’ as a generic term for all homosexual homo sapiens, regardless of gender. I may be a ‘lesbian,’ but I’m also ‘gay.’ When talking about the broader group of LGBTQ folks, I also am fine with ‘queer’ as a positively-reclaimed way to describe us all, though this feeling is not universal.)


IMG_5563When we celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision this spring, it will be a celebration unlike any you’ve ever seen. Rainbows will fill the streets, from New York to LA, and from Key West to Saugatuck! Thousands of American citizens will rejoice in what will be a landmark decision, finally recognizing the years of injustice bestowed to generations of LGBTQ lovebirds.


Discrimination goes well beyond the chapel doors, however, and the fight will not be over. We will still be turning the tide in countless small towns, rural communities, and deep south enclaves. Having the constitutional right to marry will be an enormous relief, and a financial barrier removed, as over 1,000 rights will legally be ours for the first time in the history of America! We are changing our culture, and acceptance is spreading, making it safer for future generations.


US-Marriage-Equality-January-2015The past 2 years have garnered significant publicity for the gay community, and LGBTQ groups have rallied to support these achievements and fight these battles that got us to where we are today. It has me thinking more about what life will be like Post-Gay-Marriage.


I mean, marriage is marriage. I didn’t get up this morning and eat a bowl of ‘gay’ cereal. I didn’t ‘gay’ drive to work. I didn’t ‘gay’ type these words. Someday, soon, my marriage REALLY will just be ‘marriage.’ I’ll even be entitled to divorce, too! (Not that I want that, Bethany. You’re my soulmate, and the reason I breathe).


The Alphabet Soup of LGBTQ

This is why I want to start a conversation about what’s next. Are all the gay and lesbian married couples going to sit back, relax, and quit fighting for human equality? Or are we going to expand our focus, and shift our gaze towards the end of that abominably long LGBTQ acronym?


Do you even know what LGBTQ stands for??

lgbtq_mainareaWhat started off as a fairly short list, has expanded over the years as we continue to learn and redefine what makes us unique. Today, this includes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning. (Although I frequently transpose ‘questioning’ for ‘queer.’)


It’s typically the last few letters of LGBTQ that trip people up, because they get a lot less coverage in the media and in social circles. This is where I think we need to be looking to raise the bar in our human rights campaigns post-gay marriage. Chances are that you know someone who is gay, since 10% of the population in the U.S. is- that’s 1 in 10 people. But do you know how many transgender, or genderqueer people you know? It’s likely either zero, or more than a couple (because once you become an ally, you are a precious friend for many in dire need!).


leelah-alcorn_0In the past 4 weeks I have found myself sharing, posting, or commenting on so many news stories having to do with gender, and I’ve been distraught over just how little most people know about the subject of gender. Much like the fear that was assigned to gay people a generation ago, people today are scared of those who do not neatly fit into their idea of what gender means. There’s a clue phone ringing, people… it’s NOT binary! It’s not ‘boy’ or ‘girl,’ despite everything your 5th grade sex ed teacher told you. Gender is SO much more complex than what our parents could have even imagined. (More to come on this subject in my next post). As we learn more about chromosomes, we now know that there are many variations of gender. Unless you’ve have your own chromosomes tested, you can’t really say for sure which gender you are. How’s that for a mind warp?

For now, my goal is to get these conversations started, and keep them going. If you consider yourself an ally, thank you for supporting all of my gay brothers and sisters as we fight for our constitutional right to have the right to marry, and our marriages recognized.

My question to you is, do you consider yourself a gay ally, or an LGBTQ ally? It’s time to get educated, and step up our game. We have thousands of trans and queer brothers and sisters too, and their fight is just beginning.b4b846d3-3212-499b-935b-b6dae986e56e

%d bloggers like this: