Pride In Indiana

Today is Pride Day in Indianapolis. The parade –which I always attend– will have well over 100 entrants, representing a wide variety of government agencies, educational institutions, churches and area businesses–a far cry from the few forlorn entries in the first such effort 25 years ago.

Among other things, Pride now celebrates the legal and social progress of the LGBTQ community, which has made great strides nationally over the last couple of decades. In Indiana, it will not surprise you to discover that such progress has been considerably more spotty; cities and towns have passed inclusive Human Rights ordinances, but the state as a whole is an embarrassment on this issue (as well as on so many others.)

The very different politics of cities and rural areas with respect to LGBTQ rights has recently been highlighted by the effort of Jim Merritt–a longtime legislator now running for Mayor of Indianapolis–to “cozy up” to the gay community, and to distance himself from his “perfect” anti-gay record in Indiana’s Statehouse. Our legislature has been gerrymandered to create districts dominated by rural voters, and Merritt has pandered accordingly.

He is not alone. Indiana’s legislature has stubbornly refused to pass an inclusive bias crime bill. Efforts to add four little words–sexual orientation and gender identity– to the list of protected categories in the state’s civil rights law have gone nowhere.

Two years ago, on this blog, I posted some revelatory statistics about the legal disabilities of LGBTQ Hoosiers. The laws that facilitated those statistics haven’t changed. Here’s a smattering of what I wrote then:

Approximately 133,000 LGBT workers in Indiana are not explicitly protected from discrimination under state law….  If sexual orientation and gender identity were added to existing statewide non-discrimination laws, 61 additional complaints of discrimination would be filed with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission each year. Adding these characteristics to existing law would not be costly or burdensome for the state to enforce.

Recent polling discloses that 73% of Indiana residents support the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected class under Indiana’s existing civil rights law. That’s 73% in Very Red Indiana.

Major employers in the state have worked with civil rights and civil liberties organizations in an effort to add “four little words” to the list of categories protected under the state’s civil rights statute:  sexual orientation and gender identity. So far, the legislature has exhibited zero interest in doing so.

The public outrage over Pence’s RFRA led to a subsequent “clarification” (cough cough) that the measure would not override provisions of local Human Rights Ordinances that do proscribe discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A number of city councils around the state promptly added those protections to their Ordinances, which was gratifying.

The problem, as the research points out, is twofold: municipal ordinances in Indiana don’t have much in the way of “teeth.” They are more symbolic than legally effective. Worse, for LGBTQ folks who don’t live in one of those municipalities, there are no protections at all.

The result: Only 36% of Indiana’s workforce is covered by local non-discrimination laws or executive orders that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And that discrimination occurs with depressing regularity.

– In response to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 75 percent of respondents from Indiana reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment at work, 30 percent reported losing a job, 21 percent reported being denied a promotion, and 48% reported not being hired because of their gender identity or expression at some point in their lives.

– Several recent instances of employment discrimination against LGBT people in Indiana have been documented in court cases and administrative complaints, including reports from public and private sector workers.

– Census data show that in Indiana, the median income of men in same-sex couples is 34 percent lower than that of men married to different-sex partners.

– Aggregated data from two large public opinion polls found that 79 percent of Indiana residents think that LGBT people experience a moderate amount to a lot of discrimination in the state.

Four little words. Why is that so hard?

Today, at the parade and the event itself, the community and its allies will celebrate the progress that has been made.

Monday morning,  opponents of bigotry need to go back to work.


  1. So Gerrymandering violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s “equal protection” clause, but will the Supreme Court recognize that? If by some miracle, it does, will the Indiana State Legislature finally be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century?

  2. It’s hard to give up a target that has so many fundamentalists frothing at the mouth. They will call homosexuality an abomination on their way into the Red Lobster, all the while wearing wool slacks and a cotton shirt.

  3. “The problem, as the research points out, is twofold: municipal ordinances in Indiana don’t have much in the way of “teeth.” They are more symbolic than legally effective. Worse, for LGBTQ folks who don’t live in one of those municipalities, there are no protections at all.”

    It is impossible to legislate stupidity, hate, racism and bigotry out of existence; nor can we pass legislation requiring intelligence and open minds of all Americans. When my granddaughter asked her new husband what he thought of my Rainbow Flag flying from my front porch; he said he “…knew I have many friends in that community.” She had never told him of the lesbians and gays or the biracial cousin in her immediate family and he was shocked when told. A few years ago an old boyfriend from the mid-1950s friended me on Facebook and came to visit. He made a number of racist comments till I stopped him and said I had been married to black men and have three biracial great-grandchildren. His response was, “I knew you had a past before I came to visit.” Their minds are set in stone; as are their hearts.

    How do you reach those with this limited mentality? They support those areas of this state who do not have the limited legal “protection” of LGBTQs. After reading of Indiana’s RFRA law, President Obama stated, “Joe Biden and I have become such close friends we probably couldn’t buy a pizza in Indiana.” That puts the mentality of Hoosiers in perspective and puts the state motto of “Honest To Goodness, Indiana” in a new light.

    “Today, at the parade and the event itself, the community and its allies will celebrate the progress that has been made.”

    Let us celebrate the victories of the battles won so far but do not lost sight that the war rages on. Celebrate and march proudly today my LGBTQ sisters and brothers of the heart; I will be with you in spirit. God bless!

  4. This statement is promising: “73% of Indiana residents support the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected class under Indiana’s existing civil rights law.”

    If so many, why do legislators feel comfortable excluding it? What party of the 27% are they catering to?

    Gerrymandering is their response to negating the majority of Hoosiers. 🙁

    I know there are bigots in the Blue States, but bigotry and racism seem to go hand in hand in the Red States. We all know these are irrational fears of being different, but why so prevalent in the Nanny States?

    Some will pull out their bibles as a reference, but there are bibles in the Blue States as well.

    A closed mind is a fearful mind. Rigid beliefs fear change.

    Jesus liberated people from the Old Testament and the old ways of dealing with others. He introduced the Golden Rule. Too bad many ‘Christians’ don’t follow the actions and words of Christ, who they proclaim to follow.

  5. Mayor Wannabe Jim Merritt is not the only one backtracking for crass political reasons.

    The Hero of the cable news network MSDNC Joe Biden has now decided : A day after Joe Biden affirmed his support for the Hyde amendment – a measure that prohibits the use of federal funding for abortions – he reversed course and announced that he could no longer support the ban.

    Good old Corporate Joe Biden, spins around like a whirling dervish. Must have been some poll from a focus group that convinced Corporate Joe over night to change. The spin will be Corporate Joe has evolved.

  6. In WI for a week. The new Democratic Governor just raised the GAY FLAG over the WI state capital where it will stay till the end of June.

  7. the rainbow gathering will be in wisconsin this month, people from all over America,and Canada attend. maybe some regular joes,and janes should attend,and see how easy it is to be anyone you want to be.. best wishes,
    Oregon, legislature just passed a amendment to takethe elctorial votes,and give them all, to the popular vote, gov is expected to sign it, shes a demo, thanks, we should all do this

  8. We are constantly told that we cannot legislate hate and stupidity out of existence. My response? How do we know (since we haven’t really tried to)? Why not pass such laws in obedience of the hockey great Wayne Gretsky’s observation that “You never score from shoots you don’t take.” It might work, and if it doesn’t you are no worse off than when you started and will have spotlighted the issue for future shots.

  9. I was born in 1951 and have been surprised by all the progress. Even so, I find I often behave as a lesbian woman as if it is still the 70’s. I still have trouble trusting “straight” people in this state and elsewhere unless they openly declare that they are allies. I can only hope and pray that when the millenials become the majority of representatives in our state legislature that further progress will be made. If things are ever going to change in this state, we have to somehow convince conservatives that those of us in the LGBTQ community are supposed to have the same civil rights and protections that straight people do. Maybe we should invade the rural towns and show them how to run a small business or a farm. And maybe, just maybe Mayor Pete will be one of those people who changes the minds of people living in rural communities and state reps.

  10. Monotonous – Old Joe Biden has a lot to answer for, but given the theme of today’s post, we should remember that it was Vice President Biden who first came out in favor of same-sex marriage, dragging Obama after him. Biden’s statement opened the floodgates that led to the situation we have today. We should give him credit for that one.

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