The Times They are A’Changing

Last weekend, my husband and I attended the wedding of City-County Counselor Zach Adamson to his longtime partner Christian Mosberg.

The couple had been married legally the week before, in Washington, D.C., since Indiana does not recognize same-sex marriages, but a second celebration was conducted back home in Indiana. There was a religious ceremony, involving clergy from several faith traditions, and a reception at Talbott Street that doubled as a fundraiser for Freedom, Indiana–the organization formed to fight HJR6.

Indiana culture warriors Micah Clark and Eric Miller would have been in despair; indicators of social and cultural change were everywhere, and it went well beyond the enthusiastic participation of clergy.

The ceremony wasn’t just attended by friends and families, although there were lots of both. The sanctuary was crowded with local politicians from both political parties. The Republican Mayor was there, as were several Democratic and Republican members of the City-County Council. A number of them also came to the reception, where they mingled with the kind of large and diverse group of friends that is one of the great benefits of urban living.

I couldn’t help thinking about the first time I’d been to Talbott Street, back when it was a truly transgressive venue featuring female impersonators and frequented by patrons who were mostly still closeted. My husband and I were both in City Hall at the time, part of the Hudnut Administration, and we’d come to see a friend perform. We were enjoying the show, when I was approached by a young man I recognized as a city employee. He was absolutely ashen-faced. “Please, please,” he said, “don’t tell anyone you saw me here.”

That was approximately 35 years ago–a long time in my life (although the years certainly seem to have sped by) but a ridiculously brief period as social movements go.

It’s no wonder the pronouncements from the “Christian” Right have taken on a shrill and frantic quality. In what seems like the blink of an eye, GLBT folks have gone from a frightened, despised minority to a group of friends and neighbors with whom we are happy to celebrate life’s rites of passage.

Think I’m exaggerating the degree to which attitudes have changed? Yesterday, notoriously timid Indiana University announced it was joining Freedom Indiana.

Indiana’s legislators may be the last to get the memo, but homophobia is so last century!


  1. Sheila; please add my congratulations to your friends Zach and Christian, may they continue their long time committment, and now their marriage, for many years. I have hope that the state of Indiana will move forward, recognize true religious – or nonreligious – caring, understanding and acceptance of all who only want to live their lives with fundamental rights as is their due.

    My friends Flo (black) and Ralph (white) were forced to go to Chicago to be married in the early 1960’s due to Indiana law prohibiting marriage between the races. When the law was repealed they wanted to remarry at home with family and friends. They went to the Marriage License Bureau to apply for their license and were told by the little white lady behind the counter that she could not issue them a marriage license – they would be committing bigomy. They left, hand in hand, laughing…and no less married than when they walked through the door. They were married for more than 30 years; until Ralph’s death.

    During my years working for the Hudnut administration, there was a young woman in one of DMD divisions who was openly active working for gay rights. I once asked if anyone caused her problems on the job; her answer was “no”, further evidence of the basic nature of the Hudnut administration. When I began working under Lugar, the only black faces I saw were pushing janitorial carts or mops and gays were secretive and in hiding. May sound silly with all of the racism and bigotry covertly and overtly aimed at President Obama but, maybe in the near future we will join the LGBT and can all laugh at ridiculous situations such as Flo and Ralph faced.

  2. Sheila; one form of bigotry I haven’t seen you address is discrimination toward disabled. This is one of the ugliest forms of bigotry and comes in all manner of contact. My ex-husband was paraplegic; spent 49 years in a wheelchair prior to this death. For some reason, servers in restaurants, business people we met with and others believed because he was unable to walk he was also retarded. He was extremely intelligent and a talented prize-winning artist. We were in a local restaurant for dinner one evening, the waitress took my order then asked, “What would he like to eat?” I used exaggerated miming to relay the question to him; he started waving his hands and, with tongue hanging out, began speaking gibberish. The waitress was embarrassed and did apologize but…this happened all to often.

    I have been unable to get needed bladder surgery because I am deaf. Visited two surgeons in one office; one refused to see me because writing notes is too much trouble. His associate did see me but wrote that writing notes was too time consuming. I made them aware of my deafness and disability before they agreed to schedule the appointment. The third surgeon in another medical clinic refused outright to accept me as a patient because she could not converse with me verbally. This was after I had notified them of my deafness and disabiity and they scheduled the appointment. Contacting the Indiana Board of Medical Licensing through the Attorney General’s Office resulted in refusal to put letters of reprimand in their files to document the discrimination. I had sent copies of all E-mails and notes to back up this blatant problem.

    Have you come across this form of bigotry/discrimination in your working life or observed it in public? Has anyone else approached you with this problem? When the city first installed curb cuts to accommodate wheelchairs downtown, they were only installed on one side of Washington Street in front of the C-C Building. The problem was quickly rectified once reported. The disabled have the ADA backing them legally but it is disreguarded in many situations. The LGBT organizations are now struggling to get similar legal standing regarding their civil rights. Why must everything be a battle?

  3. JoAnn, I really haven’t been made aware of this form of discrimination. The ADA was passed (by George Bush SENIOR) to address several of the barriers disabled folks face, but obviously, it has had a limited impact.

    If lawyers and others who read this blog are involved with issues arising from disability, I encourage them to educate me about these matters!

  4. Not an attorney, but I have worked in the disability/mental health area for most of my life, and am familiar with 504 and the ADA issues. The law is pretty definite about people providing “reasonable accommodation” when individuals are or claim to be disabled, and the area has generated a lot of case law. I’m surprised that a physician, who offers treatment to the public and who probably accepts Federal money for services would get by with that. I see that as an opportunity for the physician who, if he didn’t want to write (a no-brainer for someone who actually wants to communicate to patients) to communicate in other ways. (Some people take on a self perception that they think is godlike and believe they should be able to make pronouncements, instead of serving and educating people. Sounds like you had a theological disagreement with these folks: They thought they were God, and you disagreed.) The Office of Civil Rights is a good source that will probably give you good advice or even advocacy. If our Attorney General didn’t want to help, that should only add another twist to the story, and something in which the OCR might express more than a passing interest. OCR folks are nice people, too, and they have an office in Indianapolis.

  5. Thanks, Stuart, for the info. Shortly after I spent months dealing with this problem was when the ads for attorneys specializing in botched bladder and vaginal mesh surgeries began to appear on TV so maybe I was fortunate? I spoke with a friend who had these surgeries performed by the reconstruction specialist who refused me outright; she is in worse condition now than before the surgery. I didn’t think of OCR because I THOUGHT I was starting at the top by going through the Attorney General’s Office. Fighting for rights takes many forms in this city and state. The Reasonable Accommodations section of ADA should have prevented my current medical clinic from refusing to communicate via E-mail but it did not…I was informed that most hearing impaired use sign language or have TTY. I was virtually forced to sign a docment appointing my daughter-in-law as my legal medical contact even though medical staff have computers and are on line.

    Sheila; sorry this has gotten so far from the issue of same-sex marriage rights in this state but I do appreciate your time and Stuart’s info. If and when LGBT ever get legal rights to live their lives without a major public battle; I will be here signing and forwarding all petitions in their favor.

  6. I suspect that our Attorney General is so busy advocating for the unborn in other states that he doesn’t have time for the people who live here.

  7. Thanks for this uplifting post Sheila. I have a cousin who recently married her partner, legal ceremony in Boston, family ceremony in Montana. My mom flew to Montana with her brother and sisters to be part of the ceremony, and my cousin and her wife are now expecting their first child. They live in California, but we were fortunate enough to have them back in Indy recently so that our family could throw them a baby shower. While I was at the shower, I remember looking around the room at everyone celebrating this joyous occasion, and thinking what a very long way we have come over the last ten years or so. I know that we still a ways to go, but I am so happy for my cousin, and others who are finally realizing the same equal rights to pursue happiness that everyone should have. Like you, I hope the Indiana legislature will “get the memo” sooner rather than later.

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