As a gay Hoosier, the #BoycottIndiana phenomenon is reassuring to me on one hand, but, on the other, I hope doesn't distract from the real issues. I do not believe Mike #RecallPence is really responsible for the #ReligiousFreedomRestorationAct. I'm sure he is too busy to be personally invested at all as he directs his energies at destroying the public education system of Indiana (which had been one of the -- forgive me if I boast about my home -- best in the country). I'm sure, if he could, he would replace all of the elected legislators who actually invested precious time and money to propose and passed this law with his goons. He should have been recalled a long time ago, and I hope his not vetoing the bill is the last straw: petitions.moveon.org/sign/recall-mike-pence
But, it is just a straw, and it is a strawman to scapegoat Indiana for discrimination. 31 other governors have signed similar bills that 31 lawful congresses passed. Indeed, President Clinton signed a much more conservative law in 1993 that was declared unconstitutional in it its excess.
Unconstitutional laws can paradoxically be a means of progress. If DOMA and Prop8 had not been passed into law, those states that have marriage equality now would not have it (Thank you, Clinton, I had felt betrayed, and thank you, Mormons, if it weren't for you funneling all that money to promote a hasty law). Indiana's RFRA is bringing attention to inequality.
It took hateful laws to make progress because our Congresses refuse to protect the civil rights and liberties of LGBTQ citizens. The Civil Rights movement began over 50 years ago for racial minorities and queers; we tried to fight together, but it did not work out that way. LGBTQ people were excluded from the progress of the larger Civil Rights movement. Racial minorities won Constitutional protections. What makes queers different though is something that some people find morally objectionable; those who have a different interpretation of religion have been more quick to defend the intolerantly religious than the religiously intolerated. For fear of persecution of the religious, we allow religious persecution.
Like murder, persecution of the religious will unfortunately happen, but there is an Amendment to the Constitution (the first one, no less) and many other laws that ensure that it will not go unchecked. On the other hand, religious persecution of queers is rampant. The signs and images of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, origin or ancestry that well meaning people appropriate from the past are only a specter of the messages and realities that gay people are confronted with day in and day out, today.
"Not welcome" is still posted on signs in our communities on crosses that threaten fire and, we fear, what else. "Not welcome" is shouted into our ears by taunting peers. It is beaten into our broken faces. Several times a day in the US, it is cut into wrists of the children who have understood a message so common place that we often miss it and cannot recognize the effect it can have. It is written across the faces displayed on the big screen in your home almost every night. Tears etched it on a bloody body hung as a warning and reminder that hate crimes against involving sexual orientation and identity go unpunished because it sounds just a little too sexual to be dignified with the status of a minority whose civil rights the government must protect.
Look at the writing on the walls! Look at the graffiti on our homes before we are evicted for bringing it upon ourselves. Turn on the news! Ask the friend in your newsfeed why she lost his job and watch how long it takes for her to find another; I guarantee you those things were easier when people considered her male.
There is no need to wax nostalgic about have far we've come because the fact is some of us are still living those horrific black and white photos you want to believe can no longer be taken. Maybe, some part of us thinks that what is happening to queers is okay -- that only the obvious and easily hidden discrimination experienced by racial minorities in the past is legitimate injustice unlike the systematic disenfranchisement of queer people because being publicly gay is a prideful and foolish arrogance and some say being gay at all is a choice.... I'd like to think that it is only the obvious bigots who predetermine another person's dignity and whether they invite persecution or deserve equality. I'd like to think that it's just easier to pretend all of that was left behind, but gay people are still casualties of this convenience; you left us behind.
If you think the problem is the Indiana RFRA, you are grossly mistaken. You are appalled that the Indiana Congress could pass a law undoing half a century of progress? Wake up! Discrimination against gay people was NEVER prohibited.
It was only about decade ago that being queer was decriminalized. Into the 21st century, queer Americans were arrested and prosecuted just because just the alleged religion of the majority declared them sinners. We look back on prior generations' racial discrimination with horror, but we forget that it too was religiously motivated; the Biblical curse of Ham and his descendants was used to justify subjugation and exploitation of Blacks, and the Biblical prohibitions against miscegenation motivated outlawing mixed-race marriages in the United States until the racial Civil Rights movement. We forget that America was founded by people whose rejection of the horrors of religious persecution by people exposing a certain religious view was so fundamental that they established a State separate from any Church; religion is not the problem, but rather religionists imposing their views on others. We look to marriage equality as proof that religious persecution of queer citizens and discrimination is behind us. But, when we still allow people to be fired for daring to get married, we are only deceiving ourselves.
RFRA is just a distraction that fools you into believing that gays have rights to begin with. We'll be too busy fighting this thing to realize that it could only deny rights only if we had them. Bigots don't need RFRA when it comes to really destroying us.
When Indiana refuses to prohibit employment and housing discrimination based on orientation and refuses to prosecute hate crimes against us, do you really think it matters if a few Indiana businesses are stupid enough to refuse what little money we manage to get?
If we had civil rights, it would be easier to address that issue but it doubt remain one for very long. Like the 1993 Federal RFRA, Indiana's law will be declared an unconstitutional abuse of the Government's enforcing powers and will be almost entirely voided, as well. You got that, America? We did this already. We paid for the US Congress to push through a much more conservative bill. Then we paid for the Judiciary to tell us the same thing it said in 1878: "Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious beliefs and opinions, they may with practices." The voiding of RFRA should have come as no surprise to the legislators who said the were restoring the Constitution as the people who wrote it drew the very same distinction, as discussed by Jefferson, "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State." But, here we are again and again and again. Religious freedom restoration is a lie. The Constitution was not altered; there is nothing to restore; even if it were an amendment itself, an RFRA could not prevent the unlikely one that is feared.
Religious Freedom Restoration Acts are a lie. Perhaps, there is a reason why Pence is so bent on destroying education.
When RFRA is voided by the institution whose Constitutional duty it is to restore the Constitution, namely the Judiciary, we will not magically become equal. Unlike DOMA, RFRA doesn't dare refer to us lest the Court interpret rights for us that legislature refuses to acknowledge. When it is voided, we will not see any positive effect on our lives. Paradoxically, the effect will be negative: the self-righteous will become scared again, and start a new round of legislated discrimination. But. it's utterly superfluous; it's completely legal to discriminate against gays in most states (and if it is illegal, RFRA cannot alter those protections). Still, it makes them feel better, like they are keeping back Satan and the count down to Armageddon because that is what Government is supposed to do, right? Right... Satan and Armageddon are what gay people and equality are for them. Of course, I am not their Satan, and Indiana is not mine.
Believe me when I tell you that, as a gay man and a native Hoosier, I am very grateful for the sentiment of #BoycottIndiana. But, no thank you; I'd prefer it if you didn't bully the good people of Indiana (but, if you absolutely must, by all means have at the bad ones in every state). Every state is responsible for what is happening in Indiana; America is responsible for what is happening in every state. If you really want to do something about it: demand Civil Rights, demand Equality, demand prosecution of Hate Crimes in Every State and at the Federal Level. Defeating an RFRA in Indiana will not accomplish any of that. Call on your representatives to propose and pass comprehensive Civil Rights legislation. Call on your representatives to Amend the Constitution to protect even the religiously persecuted. Call now before you forget that it's still 1960 for us. That is the only thing that will stop this endless farce. If you really want to show the Legislatures what you think, demand Conventions. Of course they won't allow that, but unlike RFRA, Conventions is in fact enshrined in the Constitution.
Outrage against Indiana's #ReligiousFreedomRestorationAct is not enough. Queer Hoosiers are not protected from discrimination and hate crimes to begin with. #BoycottIndiana is a wake up call, but it is misplaced and does nothing to end discrimination or hate crimes. Queer Americans in most states are not protected from discrimination and hate crimes, and are not protected at all the Federal level. If you want to do something, demand #CivilRightsForAllHoosiers (and your state) and #CivilRightsForAllAmericans!
I'm not saying the Indiana RFRA is not important. It is, and by all means follow and demolish it. But, that is all you do, don't be surprised when it happens again.
It is time for you to share the freedoms and protections of modern America with us. It is time for us all to move on to constructive matters that improve lives, like education and recalling Pence.