Indiana #RFRA Updates

[Content Note: Christian Supremacy; homophobia; transphobia; choice policing; regionalism.]

Over the weekend, I spent a great deal more time on Twitter pushing back against the idea of a broad boycott of Indiana. (For anyone looking for alternative ideas to a broad boycott, IndyFeminists have got you covered. And here I am at Model View Culture encouraging business leaders to invest in, rather than divest from, Indiana.) And this pretty much sums up my entire weekend:

image of tweet authored by me reading: 'Move here because we're tolerant and open-minded, and your entire state is trash.' Without a trace of irony.

Suffice it to say that I—and many of my queer/progressive Hoosier compatriots—have not exactly been convinced of the professed enlightenment of people who talk about how our entire state should be abandoned, blown up, and written off as worthless.

Who are failing to listen to to the queer Hoosiers who are begging people not to boycott, because they are now not only scared of discrimination care of the "religious freedom" bill but also scared of losing their jobs because of a broad boycott.

Who are talking to us like we don't know our own state, like none of us have lived anywhere else or traveled anywhere else (including some of these progressive cites which are much more segregated than lots of communities in Indiana).

Who are purporting to be experts on Indiana while never having stepped a foot inside our borders.

Who are shouting at us to "vote!" with the most ignorant victim-blaming shit, as though it doesn't matter that Indiana is so deeply gerrymandered that many candidates run unopposed, that Indiana has no progressive infrastructure, that we have a rogue legislature who acts in contravention to the will of the majority, that we have vast voter disenfranchisement because of a heinous voter ID law which was upheld by the Supreme Court.

It truly hurts my heart to see how hard progressive Hoosiers try to make life better here and get talked about like we're trash by outsiders.

Indiana's conservative leadership enraged me. National progressives have demoralized me. In a time we most need support, we get alienation and abuse.

In any case, progressive Hoosiers are pushing back. Indiana University released a beautiful statement committing itself to diversity, and Hoosiers rallied at the statehouse over the weekend:

image of tweet authored by Patrick Calvert featuring a picture of the rally and reading: 'Here is another picture of a good majority of the rally. #Indiana #Weareindiana #RFRA'

And our dipshit of a Republican governor, Mike Pence, appeared on This Week with George Stephanapoulos being his typically mendacious self, yammering on about how it's a protection for people of faith and that there's no implicit license to discriminate.

[Full transcript here.]

Pence tries to deflect criticism by saying he wants to "clarify" the legislation, but when Stephanapoulos asks him point-blank about LGBT protections, Pence tips his hand:
STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm trying to get that same clarity. And it sounds to me like what you're saying is that someone could use their religious faith as a defense against any kind of a suit brought there. But let's try to get to that clarification you're talking about. One fix that people have talked about is simply adding sexual orientation as a protected class under the state's civil rights laws. Will you push for that?

PENCE: I will not push for that. That's a—that's not on my agenda and that's not been the—that's not been an objective of the people of the state of Indiana. And it doesn't have anything to do with this law. I mean, George, Bill Clinton signed The Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993.

...STEPHANOPOULOS: One suggested fix to the law would say that, "this chapter of the law does not establish or eliminate a defense to a claim under any federal, state or local law protecting civil rights or preventing discrimination." Is that the kind of clarification you're talking about?

PENCE: George, look, we're not going to change the law, OK? But if the general assembly in Indiana sends me a bill that adds a section that reiterates and amplifies and clarifies what the law really is and what it has been for the last 20 years, then I'm open to that. But we're—we're not going to change this law. It has been tested in courts for more than two decades on the federal level.
Pence essentially reiterates what we already knew: The supporters of the law want the unlimited right to discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers (and others), but don't want to be accused of wanting or actually having that right.

Whoooooops. Tough shit, bigots. We're onto you.

So where do we go from here? Well, ACLU IN and Lambda Legal (among others) will be looking for opportunities to challenge the law. Progressive Hoosiers will continue to advocate for its repeal. And we will be working with what resources we have to continue to challenge the conservative stranglehold on our state legislature.

And what we need from outsides is this: Support, not abandonment.

Look, I understand the kneejerk reactionary support of a boycott. Once upon a time, I supported sanctions and boycotts, too, and then I listened to people who lived under sanctions and boycotts, and I radically and fundamentally changed my position. They harm the people who are already most vulnerable.

There is no quick or easy fix in Indiana. Consequences come at the polls. That only happens with long-term progressive strategy, which I understand demoralizes people. (None more so than progressive Hoosiers.) We desperately need sustained attention, not sloganeering.

I further understand that there are people who don't feel safe here, who don't want to visit (and who want to move, or have moved). And I unyieldingly support that. Everyone must do what is best and safest for themselves. And, thanks to the miracle of the internet, you can still support progressive Hoosier businesses without ever having to visit, by buying products or making targeted donations. It really doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.

Finally, I ask that progressives reexamine the ubiquitous urge to tell people to move. Not everyone has the privilege of being able to move, which is to say nothing of not everyone having the desire to move—and those of us who could move, who choose to stay and fight on behalf of our values and in solidarity with those who can't pick up and leave, have a rough enough time of it without being written off by ostensible allies.

These places are our homes. We are working in demoralizing conditions and constant defeat to try to fix them. Give us a fucking break.

And let me tell you a little story about the current leadership in Indiana, which I hope you will keep in mind next time you want to shout at us to vote and blame us for voting in these folks...

Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, was elected in 2012 to be the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Indiana. She was a huge underdog—but beat the incumbent (with 53% of the vote) because a majority of Hoosiers, both progressive and conservative, supported her willingness to challenge Republican proposals that would destroy public education in Indiana.

Ritz is the first Democrat to serve as Superintendent in 40 years.

Governor Mike Pence was elected during the same election. One of his first acts as governor was to remove Ritz from the union-centered Educational Employment Relations Board. And then the Republican-controlled House Education Committee proposed a bill to "strip the superintendent's position as chair of the State Board of Education. ...The bill would allow Republican Gov. Mike Pence's 10 appointees to the 11-member board to elect their own chair."

In other words, as soon as a Democrat was elected to an influential state position, the Republican governor and legislature set to rendering her office utterly without power.

This is what we're up against.

Our Democratic legislators, as you may recall, had to leave the state in 2011 in order to try to stop Republicans from running roughshod over the people's will.

I can't even tell you how much you don't understand Indiana, or its people, or what's happening here, if you lazily shout "vote!" or "you get the government you deserve!" or "just move!" or "boycott!" at us.

If you care enough what's happening in Indiana that you're willing to support a boycott of the state, then please care about it enough to listen to the people who live here and learn what our lives really look like.

At the bare minimum, please remember that we are people. We are not "collateral damage." We are not a faceless monolith of worthless trash for your ill-considered rants.

We are a state of extremes, of Eugene Debs and the Klan. No state is all one thing or the other.

Anyone meaningfully committed to diversity won't pretend that doesn't matter.

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