RFRA in Indiana: A Last Gasp of Bigotry in a Lost Culture War

Pence

From what I can tell, no one really wants the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to be signed into law, with the exception of the lawmakers who passed it. To be honest, I think at this point even they probably just wish they’d left well enough alone and not bothered.

Here’s what I think has happened. I think our representatives in state government are predominantly old, white men who are angry that the world is changing. They see their privilege and status being upended by a society that is changing the rules quickly, largely due to the democratizing power of the internet. They don’t understand this new world, they don’t see how they will be useful in it, and this frightens them.

Their response is to try to mandate the perpetuation of their culture by codifying their world as they understand it into law. Remember, it was only 2004 that George Bush’s re-election was largely attributed to ‘values voters’. Their primary value, of course, being opposition to recognizing the dignity of our LGBT friends, family, and neighbors.

Indiana’s state legislators still live in this world. In their minds, they must protect our children from being ‘turned gay’ by the homosexual agenda. They must defend those ‘Christians’ who are sure that God despises homosexuals. No, enough is enough. Somehow, these brave state legislators are all that stands between us and the wrath of God and they will not let society be destroyed by these Godless liberals, not on their watch.

What these legislators have failed to realize is that in the decade or so since that election, the world changed. Many gay people stopped hiding in the shadows. They decided to stop apologizing, stop pretending to be someone they are not.

A funny thing then happened in American culture. Almost all at once, it seemed that everyone actually knew a gay person. More surprisingly for many, that gay person was an aunt, a cousin, a coworker, a friend, an old college roommate. It was someone they absolutely knew to be a good, moral, and kind person. And in short order, a very large number of Americans began to question the narrative of gay people as evil fornicators intent on recruiting your children to the homosexual lifestyle. Scientific studies began to debunk much of what we had been told about the nature of homosexuality.

And that brings us to today. Most Americans have ‘evolved’ on the issue of same-gender marriage, to use President Obama’s terminology. Most Americans believe that LGBT people should have the right to visit their spouse or partner in the hospital, receive death benefits, and be treated equally under the law. Most Americans now see members of the LGBT community as *gasp* actual people.

Indiana state legislators, apparently, are not like most Americans. They see our gay neighbors, family, and friends as ‘other’. Gay people are not worthy of the same treatment afforded to other Americans, or even other humans. They are fundamentally different in a way that renders them subhuman. Our legislators have made it clear that their view is this: “If you want to live with gay people, fine. But no one is going to tell me that I have to serve them a meal, treat their illness, or sell them a truck.”

If I believe my religion says gay people are viewed by my God as an abomination, then I should not have to recognize them as anything but that. To treat them the same as I treat anyone else is to bestow a recognition of their humanity that violates my conscience, angers my God, and places my eternal soul in jeopardy, according to these arguments.

Of course these same arguments have been used to justify prejudice and bigotry throughout history. Listen to the slave-owner in 12 Years A Slave reciting biblical scripture to explain their subjugation. It was disgusting then and it’s every bit as disgusting now.

Governor Mike Pence and our Indiana legislators who voted to pass SB 101 know they have lost. They know that our society has already accepted things they cannot conceive. It’s the reason they were desperate to get a state constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage before the tide turned completely against them. That attempt failed and it’s not been mentioned since, I assume because they know it will never again have a chance of passing.

The failure of that law to make it to a ballot measure enraged many conservatives. As a result, I think legislators felt a need to demonstrate that they were still fighting on this issue. The Hobby Lobby decision opened up an avenue for them to save face on the basis of advocating for ‘religious freedom’. Who doesn’t love religious freedom?

I think they thought they would pass this bill and it would give them a badge of honor they could wear when visiting their bigoted constituents with lots of money. Unfortunately, they underestimated public sentiment, the new voice of progressive faith communities, and the economic impact of this decision on our state. The probable loss of GenCon is just one example of the millions of dollars of lost business we will see because of this publicity stunt.

The sad thing is, this law is completely unnecessary in every respect. Don’t believe me? Ask 111 Cakery if they were ever forced to make that cake for a gay commitment ceremony they felt violated their beliefs. Spoiler: They weren’t.

Now Indiana, which has worked so hard to shed the image of a cultural backwater, is back to being portrayed as a bunch of bigoted rednecks. That’s not who Hoosiers are, despite our troubled past with racism.

To the rest of America, I ask you not to judge our state by the actions of our representatives. Get to know us as individuals and you will find that we are not the monsters you might imagine. That approach helped America see the LGBT community as people worthy of dignity and respect, despite their reputation; maybe it will work for Hoosiers as well.


Update: Think I’m wrong about this being a consolation prize to advocates of banning gay marriage? Guess who these groups represent:

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#INLove: Indiana Approves Marriage Equality

Yesterday, a federal judge in Indiana struck down our state’s same-sex marriage ban. This is a good thing. Here are just some of the reasons why I think this is a positive step for our state and the nation as a whole.

I believe:

  1. Marriage is an expression of commitment between two people to love each other and share their lives together.
  2. We should support marriage between loving couples capable of consent.
  3. Our society is strengthened by healthy marriages.
  4. Members of the LGBT community have every right to marry the person of their choosing.
  5. Children benefit by being part of stable, loving families.
  6. God loves and cares for all people fully, without qualification.
  7. God would prefer to see more love in the world rather than less.
  8. My gay friends who have been partnered for 48 years have a relationship that is more deserving of being called marriage than the relationship between Britney Spears and Jason Alexander, whose ‘marriage’ lasted 55 hours (for example).
  9. Denying basic rights to anyone based on immutable characteristics is wrong.
  10. If you were to sum up the ministry of Jesus in one word, I think it would be ‘love’.

These statements form the core of my beliefs about gay marriage and why I support it. I do not believe that gay people are disordered in any way. I believe that many of them struggle with acceptance of themselves and their sexual orientation, but that is because of society’s historic approach to them, not due to a fault in themselves.

What about the children?

I once had a conversation with a former teacher who obviously found it impossible to accept gay relationships. He told me a story about a student whose father left his family and entered into a gay relationship. The child was tormented relentlessly and bullied by others. He then asked how could I support a father doing that to his family?

The response I wish I had given is that I don’t know anything about that man’s life. Maybe he hated himself for living a lie; maybe he had tried to live a ‘normal’ life until it broke him. Regardless, that man is not responsible for the bullying and ridicule heaped upon his child. The people bullying that child are the ones responsible for their behavior. What if those around him had responded with love, helping him to see his father as a person with his own tough choices and struggles? Each person is responsible for his/her own actions. No one makes you ridicule or despise another person. That is your choice. It’s also your choice to choose love.

Choose love.

The reason we are seeing this overwhelming support of same-sex marriage is because more people are choosing love. Our LGBT neighbors are no longer hidden to us; no longer can we pretend that gay people are not in our lives or affected by our actions.

In my opinion, gay people are also choosing love. They are choosing this path by loving themselves and accepting themselves as people worthy of respect. [Note: I’m not trying to imply this is something new.] This has not always been encouraged or rewarded by our larger society. It is now.

I know that many disagree with these opinions. They feel strongly that God has spoken unequivocally in condemning gay relationships. They have the right to believe that and no one can force them to change their mind. However, while some may hold these personal beliefs, we can no longer legitimately sanction these beliefs as a society.

Our society benefits from stable, loving relationships. Indiana just helped our country benefit a little bit more.

This isn’t ‘Hoosiers’

IU supporters making it tough for Crean to succeed | 2014-03-19 | Indianapolis Business Journal | IBJ.com.

This article in the IBJ says a lot of what I’ve been feeling lately. The primary change I’d make is to focus less on how the fanbase is impacting Crean’s recruiting (it’s less than during the Davis years, by a wide margin) and more on just how disgraceful this treatment of Crean is.

Crean took over a program that was absolutely crushed by Sampson. There were no players on the team. Literally, no players. Crean has reinvented this program with guts and hard work and less than one year after being a #1 seed with two top 5 NBA picks, fans want him gone.

The worst thing Bob Knight ever did was convince Hoosiers fans they knew something about basketball. Good lord, that scene in Hoosiers when the fellas gang up on Norman Dale in the barbershop is supposed to be a caricature, not the embodiment of how you would confront Crean if given the chance.

I got it out of my head a long time ago that Indiana fans are better than other fans. They’re not; they’re worse. They think they know something they don’t and that gives them license to dissect games as if they understand at all anything that happens on the court. The fact is, 99% of them don’t have a clue.

If a kid didn’t play when Knight was coaching, it was because ‘he must not have practiced well.’ Now it’s because Crean is too dumb to know how to use his players. I actually hear people say that Sampson, who left the program in a smoldering ash pile, was a better coach than Crean.

There’s more to coaching a program than drawing on a whiteboard for 40 minutes. You might want to check if your kids go to class once in a while, for starters. Sampson was a disgrace; good riddance.

In case no one’s noticed, Indiana hasn’t won a national championship in over a quarter century. There are people with grandchildren who have never seen Indiana win a national championship. Remember that the next time you talk about how easy it is to win at Indiana.

TL;DR: Maybe Crean can coach, maybe he can’t. But he cleaned up a disgraceful program and he deserves support for as long as he’s here. 

Indiana, get it together. Kentucky is kicking our ass.

It pains me to write this. I have been brought up with a love of Indiana basketball that requires me to despise not only Kentucky Wildcats basketball, but the Commonwealth of Kentucky overall. I have been faithful to that requirement for a long time. Hell, it’s been easy most of the time. Lately though…

Kentucky

Kentucky has looked like a progressive paradise while Indiana looks like a political haven for rednecks and hillbillies. Kentucky looked at the Affordable Care Act (ACA), saw opportunities, and created a state exchange that works. They expanded Medicaid (the link is worth reading), ensuring more of their citizens would get health insurance. A federal judge in Kentucky ruled that the state must recognize gay marriages performed in states where they are legal. Then the attorney general decided not to appeal that ruling.

Yes, you read that correctly. Kentucky did all of those things. Just watch the KY Attorney General get emotional discussing his decision:

And what are we doing in Indiana? Reader, I’m ashamed to even tell you.

In Indiana, our lawmakers hitched up their britches, spit their tobaccy and shouted YEE-HAW a few times before  trying everything they could to get a same-sex marriage and civil union ban to the voters. They failed, thankfully. By the way, gay marriage is still illegal in the Hoosier state and some people won’t even sell gay couples a cake to celebrate their commitment to love each other, even though that commitment’s not legally binding!

We heard the ACA granted states the opportunities to devise their own solutions to increasing coverage of the poor and enrollment of our citizens. Instead of doing that, we sued to stop the ACA and failed. Then we sued to prevent our own residents from receiving subsidies and failed. At that point, we just lamented the ‘federal takeover’ and went with healthcare.gov while other states created their own solutions (ahem, like Kentucky).

We also refused to expand Medicaid. What does this mean? It means we’re paying to subsidize the states who aren’t in a pissing contest with President Obama and who accepted Medicaid expansion. It means that instead of our state’s tax dollars coming back to us to help give those Hoosiers living in poverty health insurance, we still pay the same amount but it goes to other states. Oh, and we still have to find a way to pay for health care for those who would have been covered by Medicaid expansion.

Read This: Medicaid Expansion: a case of the Kentucky ‘haves’ and the Indiana ‘have-nots’

In other news, the state legislature FINALLY passes a mass transit bill and Governor Pence isn’t sure he wants to sign it. Four state legislators are considering legal action because Ball State University is prohibiting a professor from teaching Intelligent Design theory in a SCIENCE class.

Look, no one loves the Hoosier state more than I do. I love this state and I especially love Indianapolis. But we can do better. I never thought I’d say I envy Kentucky but they are upholding the dignity of their citizens while our lawmakers seek to institutionalize discrimination. They are finding ways to help their vulnerable populations while we are dragged kicking and screaming to the children’s table for those who won’t participate in the process.

Get it together, Indiana.

TL;DR: Kentucky is expanding Medicaid, recognizing same-sex marriages, and making the ACA work. Indiana is… not. Let’s leave it at that.