The More Things Change

The battle at the Indiana Statehouse over adding “four words and a comma” to the state civil rights law has brought back some interesting memories.

I first began writing a column for the Word, a newspaper serving Indiana’s gay community, some 25 years ago. I stopped when the Word changed ownership, but the new editor (an old friend) asked me to come back, and I agreed.

Then I did something else.

I went into my files and reviewed some of my earliest Word columns. That review left me with two contradictory impressions: how dramatically things have changed—and how little.

Here, for example, are excerpts from a column from the year 2000. Just 16 years ago.

My youngest son recently attended the wedding of two co-workers. It was a lovely affair—formal, at an expensive Chicago hotel, conducted with meticulous attention to detail.

The program book included a message from the bride and groom, reciting how enthusiastic they were to enter into wedded life together, how sure they were that matrimony was the right choice for them. In fact, they said, there was only one hesitation, one fact that gave rise to a certain reluctance to marry: the fact that others were legally prevented from doing likewise. It seemed unfair that the status of matrimony was available to them, a man and a woman, and not available to others merely because they were of the same gender. The message concluded with a request that those present, who had shared the happy day with this particular couple, work toward a time “when everyone can enter into the institution of marriage and have their union recognized by society and the state.”

I couldn’t help thinking about the implications of this simple, powerful statement….

What would happen to the pervasive bigotry against gays and lesbians if hundreds, then thousands, of heterosexuals added similar paragraphs to their wedding programs? What if every church and synagogue that believes in human dignity added such language to their bulletins? What if businesses catering to families advertised for business by interpreting “family” in an inclusive and affirming way?

That would change the world.

What a contrast I see between my son’s friends and the group of shrill and homophobic clerics who called a press conference in Washington last week to announce that God hates homosexuality…

I am confident that, if there is indeed a judgment day, a good and just God will offer a special place in heaven to the young couple whose love extended beyond each other to embrace the human community and all its members.

The real question is, how would that good and just God respond to those who used the name of the Lord to justify their hatreds and excuse their bigotries?

As we now know, what did “change the world” was the courage of thousands of LGBT people who refused to live dishonestly and who “came out”–often with the support of their families and allies, but sometimes in the face of enormous hostility.

Last year, marriage equality became the law of the land, and survey research tells us that solid majorities of Americans now endorse marriage equality and support the extension of full civil rights protections to the gay community.

What didn’t change, of course, is the fury of the religious extremists—including Indiana’s Governor—who continue to use their religions and their crabbed versions of Deity to justify homophobia and discrimination. They are out in force to keep the Indiana General Assembly from adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Indiana’s civil rights law. Their persistence is why the rest of us can’t rest.

Not yet.


  1. Thank you, Sheila, for your long-standing support of LGBTs and their right to their rights. Look into Dana Black and Keith Potts stand on this issue; “…change in the state legislature will have to come from the inside.” (Nuvo, Nov. 4-11, 2015) There are more elections this year than president of the United States or governor of Indiana! All are vital!

    Matthew Tully’s column this morning is a lengthy interview with John Gregg – interesting reading because it is the first I have seen stating his stand on any issue. He does stand with LGBTs, defending the environment and “developing plans to bring the opportunity of public preschool to all Indiana children”. His greatest draw is, “The idea that I’m not Mike Pence is a great attention-getter.” He says he will “bring tough issues to the table.” I’m still waiting for public announcements other than on Facebook; the LGBT rights issue along with defending the environment are issues that will bring tourists, new residents and businesses to this state and not interfere with anyone’s religious beliefs. But; “he does have a history of loudly opposing federal rules impacting coal…” which is an environmental issue. Are there any anti-gay issues hidden in his woodpile?

    He didn’t mention RFRA by name but “…promises to push a straightforward civil rights expansion that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, something Pence has resisted.” Can we – should we – hope that this John Gregg will actually actively campaign against Pence? He believes it is “early in this election year” but Pence began campaigning a year ago. Do we need to see more organization of LGBT groups to come out against the Bible thumpers? The latter seem to be primarily comprised of religious zealots while LGBTs have family and friends supporting them which could be a stronger campaign platform if smartly organized.

  2. The problem is that we are living in a democracy and as George Carlin said, “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” The founding fathers made civic participation contingent on the status of being a land-owning white male,” which sounds awfully harsh today, but was a decent way to insure a minimal level of education in the voting public of that time. Now we have (almost) full rights for everyone, which is admirable, but we never found a way to encourage full participation of those who actually know something. And of course one wonders sometimes if perhaps there may not be fewer and fewer of those people as time passes. So for now we seem trapped, in places like Indiana, at the mercy of people who believe a magic man in the sky will torture them when they are ghosts because they rubbed their wee-wees together when they were alive. I wonder when we will begin addressing the real impediment to progress: religion.

  3. Thank You Prof K. And lets revisit, from time to time, the dire predictions that surrounded this issue. We were told that many horrid things would befall us if we allowed Gay people to marry. How has that worked out so far? Seems like they were all lies by crazy folk.

  4. BT,

    “Now we have (almost) full rights for everyone, which is admirable, but we never found a way to encourage full participation of those who actually know something.”

    You’re right. They’re called: “The Brains.” They need to revolt before it’s too late.

  5. In 1960 something, my cousin committed suicide on new year’s eve and his father, my uncle found him hanging by his belt in his closet. I’m pretty sure he was gay and never had the nerve to ask for sure if he was. He was 18. I don’t know the number of gay humans that have taken their life but I hope these new laws allowing them to be free to love whomever they want keeps more and more of them alive. In facebook posts even today, I read conservatives spouting that the SCOTUS can’t make laws and I just shake my head because they are so clueless how our government works. Thank you every day for your civic lessons and know that there are armies that stand behind your views.


    On second thought, I’m going to finally “put my money where my mouth is in Jacksonville, Florida USA. And start a revolt today. I’m betting on another lost tribe: THE BRAINS.

    I’ll be gone for awhile from Sheila’s Blog. However, in the words of General Douglas MacArthur: “I shall return.”

    Stay tuned to: for “updates.”

  7. Great post today Sheila!

    I especially like following sentence and wish the bigots would take an honest look at themselves in the mirror and see their hardened hearts:

    “The real question is, how would that good and just God respond to those who used the name of the Lord to justify their hatreds and excuse their bigotries?”

  8. From Wikipedia:

    “Morality is the differentiation of intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are improper: In other words, it is the disjunction between right and wrong. Morality can be a body of standards or principles derived from a code of conduct from a particular philosophy, religion, or culture, or it can derive from a standard that a person believes should be universal. Morality may also be specifically synonymous with “goodness” or “rightness.””

    So it can come from “philosophy, religion, or culture”.

    Generally if it’s seen as religious in nature it comes from a God or his representative along with consequences for not living morally. Fine for people of Faith – those who decide to grant credibility to that God or representative not based on evidence but preference to that belief over alternatives.

    If it’s seen as philosophic in nature it is assumed to be a way of living with rewards here on earth. It’s the path to satisfying life.

    If it’s cultural in nature it’s assumed to be the way that people like us generally behave so there is peer pressure added to the philosophic belief that it’s the path to satisfying life.

    I suppose that I’m an all of the above kind of guy.

    From my perspective we are all different and the only restrictions to acting as we are should prohibit behaviors at the expense of others. Your freedom can’t be at the expense of my freedom.

    So prejudice for any reason is not and can’t be moral. The source of it is suspect. If it’s not moral it is immoral. We need to call it what it is.

    I believe that living immorally can only be reasoned as behaviors at the expense of others.

    Unfortunately immorality is rampant today and IMO due to the lipstick of advertising through massive pervasive media. Way too many can be led to believe that immorality is good and morality bad.

    Doesn’t that sound a lot like “1984’s” Ministry of Truth?

  9. Marv, your post is somewhat cryptic. I’m not sure what you mean. Are you really going to not post here for awhile? If so, lots of us will miss you and we hope that your absence is for good reason not bad.

  10. It seems axiomatic that democracy requires an informed and moral society regardless of the motivation behind the morality: religion, philosophy or culture.

  11. Occasionally the descriptive term, Pharisee, that I remember being tossed around while attending a mainline Christian church as a child, a teenager, and a young adult pops into my mind. Reading today’s post prompted my thinking that today’s religious right are also today’s Pharisees.

    If you’re unfamiliar with the contemporary definition of Pharisee, I’ll share my thoughts. Pharisees are described as hypocrites who present themselves as pillars of righteousness, as those who feel it’s their job to enforce every jot and tittle of minutiae found in the Bible, those who serve as the arbiters of acceptable behaviors (especially for other Christians), and those who lack the understanding of unconditional acceptance with no contingencies or strings attached.

    With the steady growth of massive non-denominational evangelical mega-churches across the US since the 1970’s, I’d say that folks find it easier to judge others than to unconditionally accept others. As an aside, it’s entirely possible for the growing number of people who identify as unaffiliated with any faith group to unknowingly substitute religious affiliation with political party affiliation to satisfy an unrecognized need to claim membership in a group that holds all the answers.

  12. Pete,

    “….we hope that your absence is for a good reason not bad.

    It’s all good, I don’t remember anything bad. I don’t even consider the Gopper bad. We all learned from him.

    As I have told many of my friends in Jacksonville, “Sheila’s Blog is the most important blog in America.” Sheila is responsible for that. But to me, you and everyone else have been just as important to me.

    All of us on the blog are concerned about the upcoming presidential election. I consider it the most important election in my lifetime. But with that said, I personally believe that the first priority should be nullifying the Tea Party’s influence. If not, we’ll end up like the French Republic in 1935. Right now “while the iron is hot,” I want to concentrate on that.

    Jacksonville is the spearhead/prototype of the movement. If the Tea Party loses control of Jacksonville there will be a cascading effect throughout their network. I have expert confirmation on that scenario.

    Jacksonville is operated under a closed “good ole boy” system. I understand that system better than those operating it at this time. In the past, I’ve successfully confronted the oligarchy on five major issues: breaking the color barrier in the 1961 Gator Bowl; over- throwing my father’s political regime; prevented censorship laws from being enacted; paved the way for minority set-asides for minorities including women; and most recently in 2013 , I prevented the removal of all the old oak trees in Hemming Plaza, which is the focal point of our city square.

    I shall return as soon as possible. It all depends on how long it takes for me to communicate my message contained in It shouldn’t be that long. I’ve had 25 years to prepare it.

  13. Marv; the best of luck to you in this important undertaking. You know deep down how important ridding this country of the Tea Party is, taking down the clown car of Republican fools who are determined to destroy all that America means to Americans and the world. You are doing important work, work for all of us, it would be selfish to want to keep you from it. Give ’em hell, Marv!

  14. Sheila makes the point that LGBTers gained acceptance and their rights not because of god, but because they stood and looked their detractors in the eyes and demanded. I think the further the argument moves away from “god”, the better. The idea of a God is so ethereal, mysterious and easily turned to one’s own advantage, that it can make the obvious invisible. It’s best to stick to pragmatic concepts in defining one’s rights.

    Sadly the firewall arguments against rights for “others” always defaults to “god” and here in IN, it’s all some need to hear. Organized religion has successfully indoctrinated generations of “believers” using their bullshit and scare tactics, including social ostracism to control their thoughts. It’s time for a change in our tolerance to religion as a social and political tool.

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