Tag Archives: Indiana

PR Advice from an Expert

A good friend of mine used to run one of Indiana’s premiere public relations firms. So naturally, when the news broke that state agencies had hired a national PR powerhouse (for $2,000,000!) to begin repairing the damage done to the state’s economy and reputation by those responsible for the RFRA debacle, I asked him for his thoughts.

His response:

As an Indiana PR professional, I will fix Indiana’s problem for free in three simple steps:
1. Pass a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity — along with sex, race, religion, etc.
2. Have an articulate Indiana spokesperson appear on “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos.
3. When George asks “A final question, a final yes-or-no question: Do you think it should be legal in the state of Indiana to discriminate against gays or lesbians?” answer: “No, George, it should not be legal and it is not legal in the state of Indiana.”

PR problem solved. No expense required.
You’re welcome.

In other words, our mothers were right: Actions speak louder than words. (People will judge you by your behavior.) Think before you speak. (You won’t get into these situations if you think about what you are about to say or do before you say or do it.) Treat others as you would like to be treated. (You won’t regret acting like a nice person instead of a jerk.)

After all, as Matt Tully noted in a column making much the same observations as my friend, there’s a limit to what spin alone can accomplish.

Okay, So Here’s My Final Question..

You would think that everything that could possibly be said about “religious freedom” in Indiana has now been said, written or mocked, and that it is past time for this blog to move on…but I do have one more question, and it hasn’t been asked or answered. At least, not that I’ve seen.

Let’s say I own a bakery, and Mrs. Unpleasant comes in and asks me to bake a cake for her DAR meeting. She’s one of those customers who always complains about something and is never satisfied, and I don’t want her business. Do I say: “Listen, you shrew, I don’t cater to impossible biddies, go somewhere else”? Of course not–at least, not if I have any brain cells. She’d bad-mouth my bakery all over town. Instead, I say “Gee, I’d love to, but I am so backed up with orders, I can’t squeeze this in.” Or “Darn! I have to wash my hair this week and won’t have time.” Or something.

So–this time, it isn’t Mrs. Harridan with the megaphone, it’s Adam and Steve, and they want a wedding cake. Wouldn’t I use the same sort of excuse? I mean, who is compelling  bakery/flower shop owners to declaim “Oh no, my Lord has commanded that I not participate in your sinful nuptials!”

Who’d know what my real motive is? Adam and Steve might suspect, but as any lawyer will confirm, suspicion isn’t evidence.

This leads me to think that  what these “godly” folks really want isn’t just the right to refrain from participating; they want the right to scorn and humiliate any hapless LGBT folks who might be unwary enough to try patronizing their establishments.

They don’t just want the right to “opt out” of baking that cake or making that bouquet; they want to be able to advertise their superior “godliness” without worrying about some silly legal commitment to equality or civility.



Why Can’t We Be More Like Oregon?

As I’ve previously noted, early in the session, Indiana’s legislature moved quickly to kill a bill that would have kept our polling places open for two extra hours. (Indiana’s polls are the nation’s earliest to close). It was just one more effort to suppress the votes of people–mostly elderly, working poor and/or black–who might vote for the “wrong” party.

If we really wanted our citizens to vote (“we” clearly don’t), we’d take a leaf from Oregon’s book.

Call it “motor voter” on steroids.

New legislation signed into law today in Oregon paves the way for the state to one day have close to 100% voter registration. The new law takes the federal “motor voter” law to new levels and registers a person to vote when they obtain or renew a state driver’s license or ID – and it’s partially retroactive.

The law dictates that once residents interact with the state DMV – whether to get a license or ID for the first time, or renew an existing one – they’ll become registered to vote if they aren’t already. The registration will be provisional for 21 days, during which time applicants will be notified of their new status and be given a chance to become affiliated with a political party or to opt-out of the voting process altogether. In essence, Oregon will now be the first state to approach voting with an “opt-out” mindset, as opposed to “opt-in.”

I’ve written before about the virtues of Oregon’s vote by mail system, which is not only convenient, but allows time for thoughtful consideration of ballot choices. Every registered voter is automatically sent a ballot about two weeks before Election Day, and can either mail their ballots back or return them in person.

According to the Oregonian, 

Because of Oregon’s careful signature verification process, fraud and other electoral mischief are virtually nil.

Recounts in extremely close races are based on paper ballots of every vote — not receipts or electronic voting machines. So there’s no danger in Oregon of software hackers casting ersatz votes by the thousands — not to mention no electricity to operate electronic voting machines or impassable roads and polling places 3 feet underwater.

In the 2014 midterm election, 53.5% of Oregon’s registered voters actually voted. The state was fifth in voter turnout

Indiana was dead last. Gee–I wonder why.



This Business Serves Everyone

The mis-named “Religious Freedom” bill is gliding through the Indiana General Assembly, where–despite polls showing the movement’s loss of members and power– lawmakers still tremble at the thought of crossing (no pun intended) the Religious Right.

The bill is a transparent effort to dignify discrimination by businesses offended–offended, I tell you–by the very idea of taking money for goods and services from same-sex couples. Of course, by its terms, it will allow establishments to turn away anyone they dislike based upon “sincere religious convictions,” so the potential for mischief is great, but everyone knows that the intended target of the measure are those uppity homosexuals.

Of course, as Erika Smith has pointed out, merchants can already discriminate against gays with impunity, since Indiana’s civil rights law doesn’t protect against discrimination based upon sexual orientation–so an additional “We’ll show you!” bill will basically serve to announce to the rest of the country that Indiana is a state where bigots hold sway.

We may not be able to muster sufficient rational candidates and voters to fill our legislative chambers with grown-ups and nice people, but that doesn’t mean reasonable Hoosiers don’t have recourse. I am delighted to learn of “Open for Service.”

Welcome to Open For Service! We are a grassroots campaign built to honor businesses that will not turn a customer away for any differences. To register your business, it is $10.00 for a sticker and web badge with the proceeds going to SCORE a national non-profit that mentors people who would like to start a business of their own. Join us, hang out and promote an “open minded economy!”

The stickers say “This Business Serves Everyone.”

One of the great virtues of capitalism is that consumers can choose where to spend their dollars. I patronize Costco rather than Walmart because I want to support businesses that treat their employees well and avoid those who don’t. I have the right to never set foot in Hobby Lobby, or buy sandwiches from Chik-fil-A–in short, a market economy offers me the right to make choices based upon any criteria important to me.

So if, as I fear, this piece of nastiness passes into law, I plan to patronize stores with stickers–and to ask hard questions before spending my dollars at stores without them.

The Times They Are REALLY A-Changin’

At least, they are changing in Georgia. From the Georgia publication, GA Voice, we learn

If you didn’t think things could get anymore dramatic in the fight over the so-called “religious freedom” bills, think again. Michael Bowers, the infamous Republican former Georgia attorney general who was at the center of two of the state’s biggest LGBT rights cases, has been hired by Georgia Equality to help fight passage of HB 218 and SB 129. In other news, dogs and mail carriers have reached a truce, Jennifer Aniston was spotted antiquing with Angelina Jolie, and Batman is going in on a summer home in Cape Cod with the Joker.

This was the Bowers of the infamous Bowers v. Hardwick case upholding Georgia’s law against gay sodomy–a case that made criminals out of LGBT folks until it was finally overruled in Lawrence v. Texas. He is now working with Georgia Equality to fight discrimination against gay citizens and others–discrimination that he says these measures will protect.

It is no exaggeration that the proposed [measures] could be used to justify putting hoods back on the Ku Klux Klan. For decades, Georgia’s Anti-Mask Act has prohibited wearing masks in public.

The law was enacted to prohibit the Ku Klux Klan from wearing hoods in public, and by extension, to discourage participation in its activities. While this statute contains exceptions for holidays, sporting events, theatrical performances, and gas masks, it does not contain a religious exercise exception – because many Klansmen used religion to justify participation in the Klan.

But the proposed [measures] would create a religious exception that was purposefully excluded. Anonymous participation in hate groups would undoubtedly rise….

Here in Indiana, the same measure is sailing through the General Assembly.

Bower’s analysis reminded me that Indiana used to be “ground zero” for the Klan; I’d like to think we’ve evolved….that the times are also changing here.

I guess we’ll know once the legislative session concludes.