Sending a Message–Updated

Back in 2000, I wrote a column for the Indiana Word about the use of legislation to “send a message.” Following passage of the so-called “Religious Freedom” bill, it seemed appropriate to revisit the points raised.

After all, hateful Hoosiers who want to discriminate against their LGBT neighbors can already do so with impunity–Indiana’s civil rights laws do not protect gay citizens. Same-sex marriages may be legal in Indiana, but gay Hoosiers can still be denied services, refused employment and/or fired just for being gay. So to the extent that SB 101 is aimed at permitting discrimination against members of the gay community, it’s totally unnecessary. Unless, of course, our lawmakers want to “send a message.”

As I pointed out back in 2000:

With all due respect to all the folks who want to use the General Assembly instead of Western Union, such an approach to lawmaking is wrongheaded and dangerous for a number of reasons.

1.) It trivializes the law. When the legislature passed measures to criminalize private sexual behavior, for example, no one seriously believed that the local constable was going to come into every bedroom to check for violations. Such measures were justified because they “sent a message.” And indeed they do, which brings us to the next problem. See Paragraph 2.

2.) Such laws send different messages to different people. Before they were struck down, sodomy laws “sent a message” to gays that they are second-class citizens. Laws making women submit to multiple “counseling sessions” or vaginal probes in order to obtain abortions signal legislative contempt for women, not respect for life. See Paragraph 3.

3.) They promote pandering. When lawmakers know perfectly well that they are engaging in a meaningless gesture, the urge to satisfy extremist constituencies can easily be justified; after all, where’s the harm?  Indiana, like many states, passed the Defense of Marriage Act to “send a message” that satisfied the Christian Right; lawmakers defended their actions to rational folks by pointing out, quite correctly, that the law hurt no one, because at the time there was no gay marriage to refuse to recognize. It was a model example of “Law as an Empty Gesture.” Of course, to gay citizens, it sent a different message. See paragraph two.

4.) “Messages” inconsistent with Constitutional values distort the balance of power in our legal system. When this original column was written, in 2000, lawmakers had just authorized posting the Ten Commandments in public buildings. Of course, that was patently unconstitutional, and lawmakers knew it. When I asked a State Representative why he and others were voting for a measure they knew would be struck down, his answer was candid: “We all have to go back and justify ourselves to the voters in Mayberry. Let the Courts take the heat.”

When lawmakers engage in this sort of unethical game playing, it feeds hostility to the judicial system, which must protect individual rights by voiding such improper and cynical measures. That hostility further erodes respect for law, and that brings us full circle. See Paragraph 1.

In the case of SB 101, we might add another likely consequence: although the measure doesn’t change Indiana laws that apply to gay folks, it may well encourage “religious” refusals to serve or employ Muslims or blacks or other Hoosiers who currently are protected under the state civil rights laws. It will almost certainly spawn expensive litigation. And it seems likely to cost Indianapolis (whose citizens by and large opposed the measure) several conventions and the economic benefits that those conventions bring.

Because the General Assembly did, indeed, “send a message.” And a lot of people received it.


  1. Consider the message being sent by Pence; he doesn’t have the balls to sign SB 101 into law in a public ceremony. Why is he hiding, what is he hiding, is it that he doesn’t have the balls to go against the House and Senate who passed the bill like you-know-what through the proverbial goose? Does this discriminatory bill, which violates my religious, civil and human freedoms, contain the requirement for businesses availing themselves of it’s bigotry to identify themselves?

    Who would ever believe Ballard would publically go against Pence, the House, the Senate and the GOP in general? Because he is not running again, he no longer needs their support – and probably doesn’t need their money. “The Donald” became a Cruz “birther” then backtacked; Cruz is reported to be applying for Obamacare after losing his wife’s health care coverage. We need to keep a watchful eye on the GOP with these developments; they could all be a ruse hoping to get us to relax our vigil on their comings and goings. An old Russian proverb, “Do not stir s#+t with stick, it will cause stink.” I believe this changing picture of the GOP stinks.

  2. One can only hope those conventions will make good on their threats to cancel their scheduled Indianapolis events. Someone needs to be held publicly accountable.

  3. We need all of our major political leaders to speak out loudly about this law. Donnelly, Coats, Holcomb,Ritz, Carson, Brooks. Do they support this Religous Freedom Law or not? Time to step up to the plate in the 9th inning /the final quarter, the last half. NOW.
    Pence does not have a monopoly on GOD.
    Oh – and how about the NCAA ?

  4. It’s sad that this is the message that the world is receiving about Indiana – I even saw coverage of SB 101 on the BBC World News yesterday. I am ashamed that this is the message people elsewhere are getting about who we are, too.

  5. Greg: As far as the other elected officials from Indiana, I expect the silence to be deafening

  6. Hoosier voters also sent a message in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 when they elected overwhelming GOP majorities. I find it hard to believe that a whole lot of folks who oppose RFRA didn’t also help elected those majorities.

  7. Sheila is right on target in viewing this bit of nonsense as “a message” to those who they believe should be subject to discrimination. As I understand it, similar laws in other states are targeted at “protecting” individuals, but this one allows organizations (businesses, etc) to exert a more weighty type of discrimination. A message needs to be sent back. You disgrace your religion, your country and your state by passing this bill. It does not matter whether the bill functionally affects anyone or not, as its perpetrators claim. If so, that’s just evidence it wasn’t needed. The message can be sent in many ways, but ultimately it needs to sent via any upcoming election. Vote these people out– this isn’t the last stupid thing they are going to do!

  8. We have two avenues to combat injustice of this nature. The power to vote and the power to inflict economic sanctions against those elected officials who enjoy income from private business interests. Hopefully, a list will be generated that links the Politian’s (who support SB101) and the respective businesses that provide them income. In future, I want to know the background on every business where I’m proposing to spend money.

  9. Thank you, Red George. My lesbian friends and I go out to eat frequently, we also occasionally go shopping; it will be important for us to know where NOT to go in the future. I am straight; but that has nothing to do with our friendship of years; we share good times, problems, laughter and tears, our friendship and mutual love binds us together. Most of my lesbian friends are Colts, Fever and Pacer fans; will their attendance be effected by this if Jason Collins is questioning if HE will be welcome here in the future. Remember the years when black entertainers could not eat in places where they performed or sleep in hotels/motels where they were billed as stars. There are also the restaurants where LGBT sports fans go, places where they park, they all buy shirts, pennants, etc. They are all hard working, bill paying, tax paying, home owning, Christian women (2 are nurses, 1 a nursing assistant); this law will be more far reaching than Pence and his cronies know and could backfire on them. The LGBT families and friends will not patronize businesses that will turn them away or refuse to hire them. But…until/unless it hits Republicans in their wallets and bank accounts, it won’t matter to them.

    Consider those who support SB 101; bigoted, wrong and misguided as they are, they have a right to know which businessed they want to support and where they can avoid those they believe to be beneath their dignity to “rub elbows with” and avoid sharing restrooms with. In my heart, I believe WE outnumber them by far. What does the future hold for all of us with a governor who will not hold a public signing ceremony for a bill he fully supports, while ignoring public outcry?

  10. When the counting is done the most damaging force against American democracy will be Reagan’s statement that “government is not the solution. It is the problem”. Far worse in terms of actual damage than even Communism ever inflicted. I realize that Reagan was only acting the role of President but many Americans are not able to distinguish reality from fantasy.

    Our democracy used to be inhabited by those distinguished for their statesmanship, as honorable a calling as there is. No more. Now the snake oil salesman have been called in to participate in the great sell off of what we used to be.

    I have to believe that those skilled in statesmenship are still out there. Our job in 2016 is to get everybody who still believes in that as the central role of government to the poles.

    We can. We have to. We will.

  11. I agree with Sheila’s assement….regarding the conventions. My husband and I have often thought that the GOP has been wanting to take out areas with strong Democratic strongholds. Terre Haute has been wiped out and Lake County is on its way out the door. Several conventions and company headquarters are already threatening to leave or stop investing in current operations all of which would harm Indianapolis.

    Just some observations

  12. Sheila, I think your paragraph 4 from 2000 is right on target. If the Supreme Court rules that laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, Indiana legislators will tell Mayberry that even though the evil federal government may have decided to allow same-sex marriage, our SB 101 protects God-fearing Hoosiers from having to do business with those scary gay people. Legislators will whine about states’ rights being trampled by activist judges. It’s a conservative face-saving move in anticipation of the world moving ahead without them.

  13. Most things in life end up being a two way street. I’m looking for some way that this bill will somehow protect the Gay Community from those “Scary God Fearing Hoosiers” by weeding out the bigots amongst us and exposing them for what they really are.

    Lets face it, its already shown us what a “Hideous Nest of Vipers” our state house is …

  14. Listen, folks, you may not like to hear it, but you on the Left have yourselves to blame for a lot of this.

    The Oregon gay wedding cake injustice

    And the New Mexico photographer who refused to photograph a gay wedding

    scared the Hell out of Republicans who quickly put in place protections to ensure those injustices would never happen in Indiana.

    If the gay marriage advocates left the baker and the photographer alone, this law wouldn’t have been necessary.

  15. This new law allows nasty folks to be legally nasty, but it opens the opportunity for good people to shine. Today’s Post-Tribune talks about well-known local Valparaiso businesses which have posted signs saying “We Serve Everyone”, and that many are using the site to get signs and stickers to show their good will. Apparently, local businesses are being encouraged to post signs to show their solidarity in the matter. After all, what sane business owner wants less business?

    Valparaiso is not just a rural backwater. Many of its citizens work in Chicago and the mix has brought a cosmopolitan air to the place, and it’s influencing many folks in Lake County to follow. People who think this new law gives them an opportunity to be hateful might just as well post a sign saying “The judgmental people here will condescend to take your money”. The Post-Tribune article, with some neat comments is here:

  16. I just wrote up a good comment on how we got to this point, but since I must have tripped certain sensitive keywords, it’s “awaiting moderation.”

    This entire discussion needs more openness.

  17. The photo of the governor (small “g” used purposely) signing privately in his office with clearly extremist religious group of people surrounding him. These very same people were being marginalized and discriminated against, subtly and overtly, with living memory. Shame on them all. Unintended consequences are inevitable.

    Democrats, find exceptionally qualified candidates to oppose the ideologues who are responsible for this travesty. Republicans, vet the candidates you support in the primary, support moderates who are appalled by the actions of their party’s elected and appointed members. This kind of thing is going to cost us all.

    As a voter in State District 31, I plan on working actively to get Scott Schneider out of Indiana politics for good. His religious beliefs do not trump mine.

  18. Then you’re part of the problem, Stuart. Presuming only your ideas may become law is arrogant and cost you a large defeat in Indiana, today.

  19. Does this now mean the clerk at the Retail Store can refuse to sell me Liquor, cigarettes , condoms or other methods of Birth Control since it would violate the Clerks or Store Owners Strongly Held Religious Beliefs??

    Our Legislature and Governor seem to have a bigger concern for Bible Thumping and handing out Corporate Welfare for the Indy Eleven than to the epidemic of HIV in Scott County, Indiana. It is hard to believe State Officials could have been taken off guard by this. OH Pence will have some platitudes and offer a band aid of a temporary needle exchange. If we had universal health care with drug treatment perhaps we would not have the health repercussions. The other issue would be Living WAGE Jobs.

    According to the Chicago Tribune – Austin, IN has no drug rehabilitation facility, much less a grocery store. It’s also the epicenter of the worst HIV outbreak in Indiana history.

  20. (

    I’m curious …

    You appear to be insinuating that SB101 is entirely the fault of the Gay Community and simultaneously that they have no right to Litigation when encountering discrimination.

  21. Red, this is what got you into trouble. Calling a merchant’s free market choice “discrimination” turns most people off and caused this law to be passed. Everyone on your side should have been decrying the cases I noted as abusive.

    Only the extremists support the outcomes in the two cases I noted. The moderates are not with you.

  22. If you open a retail establishment and advertise goods with a visually displayed price (in the store window or on the store shelves) how can the retailer claim free market choice and exclude a certain group of people from making a purchase. The goods have been displayed for all to see, this would be akin to “Red-Lining”. Perhaps Red-Lining is an acceptable practice also?

    Oh, by the way I’m not an extremist, I’m a moderate. Perhaps an opinionated moderate, but a moderate no less.

  23. Former Gopper; when an apparently PUBLIC business discriminates against any one person or group of people – claiming religious beliefs – they are no longer a PUBLIC business as they have not published their list of those they will not serve. Even the horrible Jim Crowe laws had large, easy to read signs displayed informing the public their intentions. I lived in the south and saw it daily; it was ugly but it was more honest than the cases you used as examples of business people who denied services to unsuspecting customers. We in Indiana have yet to know where NOT to go for service. Those businesses need to be OUTED immediately rather than hiding as Pence did with his secret signing ceremony. They need to go through the legal procedure forming a private business or organization which requires membership for admittance.

  24. So, Red, if I understand what you are saying, if you are selling electric shavers for $20 in the window, and when I enter your store to buy one, and you say, “Sorry, but you are over 6 feet tall”, it’s not fair. But if, given the same circumstances and the new law, I enter your store, and you say, “I have a deeply held religious problem with tall people”, then you can refuse to sell me the shaver? Wouldn’t Former Gropper say that all of this was my fault because I entered your store to purchase the shaver?

  25. Why Stuart … I wouldn’t refuse to sell to you.

    Your money is as green as the next person and I’m
    in business to make money however tall you are.

    Why would I want to do a stupid things like cut off
    my source of revenue. After all, the world is full of
    people over 6 feet tall.

  26. Do you folks have a problem with pet shelters pulling black cats off of the adoption lists prior to Halloween, because they are used for sicko satanic rituals?

  27. I guess I should have said that in the first situation, when you refused me service because I was over 6 feet tall, it would have somehow been my fault that I asked for service, because I should have known that you didn’t want to serve tall people, but with the new law, there is now no problem because the law allows you to refuse me service because of your deeply held religious belief? It’s my fault for even bringing it up.

  28. I’m sorry but I cannot see the connection between Black Cats,
    Satanic Rituals and selling shavers to men over 6 feet tall?

    The only situation that I can see for refusing service, is if you
    are a private retail establishment with a membership base.
    Like Costco and Sam’s who can deny sales to non-members.
    Please refer to JoAnn Greens earlier posting.

  29. Stuart and Former Gopper; you need to find and read Pence’s statement AFTER signing SB 101 into law in front of his small, select group of mixed religious representatives that it is NOT discrimination. It not only discriminates against same-sex couples but religious beliefs of others and probably back to allowing racial discrimination. Your inane comments have shown you will agree with Pence and you have no understanding of discrimination on a logical level of conversational exchanges. I am still known (this began in the mid-1950’s) as a “N” lover because of black friends, I received the same discrimination they did. I am known in my neighborhood as that “old fag” because I am good friends with the lesbians in the area. This is the 21st Century and Americans should be beyond these petty discriminations instead of making them laws.

    I join Red George in stating I am not an extremist, I am a moderate – opinionated to be sure. To quote Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason if you have forgotten), “I’ve got a BIIIIIIIIIIG MOUTH.” and busy little fingers on my computer keyboard. I am also a Christian who allows others – even bigots – to their own religious beliefs – till they trample on my own. I will continue fighting against this law and others like it; they will win but they will be tired!

  30. I don’t see the connection between black cats, satanic rituals and shavers to tall men, either, but the law itself doesn’t mention any particular condition or rationale, which gives people the entitlement to discriminate against folks for whatever religious reason they choose to claim. I just made up the six foot thing. They could use almost anything else, except for circumstances outlined in the law.

  31. I fully understand that your criteria was hypothetical and yes I
    can also see the point that it could be a religious bias that could
    be based on other conditions in addition to/or in lieu of bias
    against the Gay Community. However, wherever the bias is aimed,
    it could by all accounts create an economic backlash that will
    result in the loss of jobs, taxes etc, etc.

    Lets not forget, this bill was directly aimed at the Gay Community
    at its onset and I have not seen a change in direction up to this
    point in time.

  32. I totally agree, but the problem with laws like this is that they sometimes develop legs on their own. I fully accept the idea that I may be borrowing trouble, but it’s significant that the SCOTUS rulings that you think are going this or that way sometimes go totally awry, and laws written to solve this guy’s problems are suddenly applied to someone else’s issue. I’m certainly not an attorney, but the history of this country seems to be filled with expectations that went in a totally different way because the law opened up a crack in the foundation, and this law seems to have those characteristics. If we are fortunate, some judge will understand this and throw it out. Then the legislators will have made their bases happy, and they can blame it on the judge.

  33. WISH TV reported there is a petition on line to recall Pence; I Googled and found it easily. Posted it on my Facebook page after filling out the form but when I filled in E-mail addresses to forward the petition – it rejected all E-mails Iisted – family and friends I message daily. In case anyone is interested, 20,000 signatures in the past 4 hours:)

  34. This is just more of the crap like when pharmacists refused to carry the morning after pill because it was an abortifacient. The Bush law made the RR happy (I’m sure Patricia Miller was doing her superior dance for weeks) but as a practical matter I figured any pharmacist who was that stupid should be avoided at all costs. So I made about ten phone calls and knew where I SHOULDN’T shop. That was over ten years ago, and I haven’t been back to that Payless since. Oh, and as far as taking crap from a baker over whether you had their moral approval? I say good job suing their pants off. The GOP (former and otherwise) love nothing better than outrage, so oblige them. But all this furor needs to be put into shoe leather on the ground running candidates to replace people like Brandt Hershman who came up with the idea to kick gays and women around to get elected. Besides, while they have us all outraged and signing petitions, they are busy selling off the commons to private ownership. Think I’m kidding just look at your cable bill.

  35. So sorry I wasn’t able to chime in earlier on this thread………I was a bit miffed when Mike Pence didn’t invite ME to his private ceremony. I saw some nuns and monks there but apparently they didn’t want to offend their host by asking why I wasn’t present.

    Fortunately since I am Who i Am, I don’t really have a Compelling Need for anything I created, and since I’m Omnicient I don’t have to worry about leas restrictive means. Still, since my LGBT children still often fill the role of being the least of my brethren (I got that phrase from my oldest Boy), what the GOP majority in Indiana is doing to them is being done to me.

    That’s in the Bible, and since I had a hand in writing it, I should know.

  36. Just who all were present in the photograph for the signing? The governor’s office wouldn’t say, and the press was closed out of the entire office to allow them to slip inside and then out without anyone seeing who they were. I read in the Indy paper that Micah Clarke said he was present, and I presume Eric Miller, but who else? Does anyone recognize them? And why the preponderance of nuns and friars? Is there another round of anti-abortion activity based on this law in the works?

  37. This law does not appear to specify exactly WHO can be discriminated against, no limitations listed – and refusal to serve is discrimination no matter what Pence calls it – as long as they claim it is for religious reasons. Actually, those pictured surrounding Pence at his secret signing ceremony appear to be from another century – a past century. And I believe I saw only one black face, a token Nun? Could this picture possibly be photo shopped, the reason for denying the press and the secrecy surrounding the event?

  38. We have seen the scenario with the Pediatrician and the Lesbian Couple with a Baby.

    So, what if; a High School Teacher refuses to educate a Gay/Lesbian Student …

  39. Excellent point, Red George. We do know there has been discrimination regarding race for many years; we possibly have not heard the LGBT discrimination examples yet. I made a decision knowing this ugly law would be signed by Pence; the decision to ask everywhere I shop or pay for service if they support this law. I began this morning at my local Kroger; explained my deafness to the customer service rep at the service desk, asked her to please answer by nodding “yes” or shaking her head “no”. I asked if Kroger supported this new law; I was met with a blank state but didn’t know if she knew nothing about the law or if she didn’t want to answer. I briefly explained the basis of the law; still a blank stare, finally a barely discernable head shake from side to side indicating “no”. I responded, “Good and thank you.” I’m sure she believed this little old lady was hoping for a “yes”. Told her I have gay friends, we dine out and shop together and I intend to ask this question of any business I enter. She then smiled and nodded in agreement. We can read words on Facebook, in this blog, in newspapers, hear on TV news broadcasts and radio but to see the expression of someone put in the postion of answering face-to-face gives us more than a basic resonse.

  40. Red, I think you have hit upon the next big deal. There are enough extreme people in this state to produce one or two big cases that could bring down the whole hot mess. The high school teacher who refuses to teach LGBT, or teach evolution or, whatever. Lots of creative people out there to consider the interesting alternatives. If this were a state where all the folks had good will, this law would be ignored, but if there are a few creative stinkers, hold your hat.

  41. Been reading about the businesses pulling out of Indiana because of the new law. Hey, Mike, how’s that “bringing jobs to Indiana” thing working out for you?

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