SB101: Let’s make it awkward.

My fellow Hoosiers.

By now, you have probably heard that SB101 has been signed by Governor Mike Pence.

I’m not going to talk about whether or not this law forms a legal basis for discrimination.  Lawyers with more knowledge than I on these matters have already made that case and I am convinced.  If you want to read some of their arguments, you can do so here and here.

I’m not going to talk about whether or not Jesus of Nazareth would have condoned such a law.  More learned Christians than I have already made that case, if you would like to read some of  their arguments, here they are.

I am going to talk about what Hoosiers who oppose this law, who think that this law is bad governing, bad theology, and a breach of human compassion and decency, can do.

I grew up in Indiana.  I was born in Lafayette, I went to high school in Bloomington, I attended college in Richmond.  My extended family and friends live in Indianapolis, Elkhart, and South Bend.  I know my home state and I know the misplaced fear, the mistaken righteousness, and the dangerous passivity that allows a law like this to be lobbied for and to be passed.  I know it because I grew up with that fear and righteousness and passivity, and sometimes I was the perpetrator and sometimes I was the survivor and I know a lot of people who will be the perpetrators and who will be the victims of this law.

And I also know that as Hoosiers, one of the things we fear the most is…awkwardness.  Discomfort.  Making a scene.

We are taught to be nice, by which I mean to make sure that conversations aren’t too distressing, that no one is publicly embarrassed, that everything seems, at least on the surface, to be agreeable and pleasant.

This isn’t always a bad thing.  Sometimes it is a kind and useful thing.

But sometimes, we need to make a scene to effect change.  We need to point a finger at the status quo and say that the status quo is wrong.   It’s taken me a long time to learn this and it is still something with which I am deeply uneasy.  I don’t like confrontation, I don’t like making people visibly uncomfortable, I don’t like sticking out and calling attention to myself.  But I have learned that oppression thrives in many environments, and a silent community is one of them.

What can Hoosiers do to fight this law?  We can make it viscerally, horribly, deeply uncomfortable to have it on the books.

We can bring it up at our workplace, at our churches, at our schools, and among our families.  Among strangers.  Yes, strangers.

We can ask the stores we patronize if they serve everyone.  We can walk out if their answer is anything but, “yes.”

If we work at an Indiana business that serves people in the state, we can ask our bosses and co-workers to make it clear that we serve everyone and if they say no, we can ask why they don’t want to serve particular people.  We can have that awkward conversation and we can refuse to shut up about the issue, no matter how uncomfortable it makes others.

If we live in Indiana and choose to boycott businesses that refuse to serve particular people, we can write them and clearly explain why they have lost our business.  We can send copies of that letter to our local paper.  And our state representative.  And our city council.

If we choose to patronize businesses that are serve all people, we publicly declare that support.  We can compile lists of those businesses and distribute those lists.

If we are living outside of Indiana and choose to boycott the state, we can publicly declare why exactly why we are boycotting Indiana.  Maybe we can send the money we would have spent in Indiana to organizations and businesses fighting this law and we can declare that publicly as well.

If we choose to come to the state for an event, we can make a point to ask each and every business we patronize if they serve all people and only work with those who do.

If we live in Indiana and lose paychecks and jobs and contracts because people are boycotting our state and we are mad about that, we can write angry letters about how mad we are and how this law is making it hard for us to get by.   We can point our anger to the politicians that signed this law, to the groups that lobbied for this law, and we can tell them loudly that they are to blame for our suffering.

Whatever it is we choose to do, we need to make it loud.  Don’t let the passing of this law be business as usual—make it a public relations nightmare.

Don’t let the conversation die, because if we do that, our silence will be a shield for this law.   And if anyone points out that we are being loud and awkward and making the whole situation so very, very uncomfortable, we can point out that being discriminated against is deeply awkward. 

Now, I want to be clear, I am not calling on vulnerable folks targeted by this legislation to put their safety at risk—I am calling on folks like me, who are not (yet) the target of this legislation.  We need to take care of our community and right now that means making a big, ugly scene.  Throw a fit over this.

Don’t be nice, be brave and fearless for the people we love. 

#MakeItAwkward

52 thoughts on “SB101: Let’s make it awkward.

  1. Betsey Brogan says:

    Thank you ! Having just last night heard your wonderful Mom sing in Decatur Georgia I feel doubly blessed. That there are people in the world like your Mom and yourself standing up for what’s right gives me hope. I will share your poweful words. Thank you

  2. Gary Walters says:

    Bravo Amelia! You are right on the mark with your approach to protest on this one. I’m inspired to make it less comfortable for everyone as I carry on in my Hoosier state with my Hoosier upbringing. Thank you.

  3. Julie Stewart says:

    Seattle’s mayor has just banned all city business travel to Indiana. Thought you would like to know.

  4. Sara Haynes says:

    Well Amelia,
    Thanks for such well articulated comments. I AM planning to visit your home state to see the opening of REGULARS AND REFUGEES in September. I will be a vet loud complainer am appreciate the advice. I have a friend from Indianapolis who will, I am sure, join in battling such an abusive and archaic law. Thanks for the “heads up!”

  5. Marcy Kauffman says:

    Thank you for articulating my feelings. There simply isn’t room in this world anymore for anything other than compassion. All the hate and divisiveness and fear is unacceptable. Your thoughts are right on!

  6. Vickie says:

    Thank you for this well written essay. Silence is the one thing we should fear. Compliance, acceptance, lethargy…all things that lead to wrong being accepted. Speak out and speak up!! For everyone deserves kindness and acceptance of who they are.

  7. Carol Ann Baker says:

    Thank you, Amelia. Count me in solidarity with you on all your points. It is also a southern cultural trait not to make things awkward. We have to wrestle that down with courage. I admire yours. The world is a better place because or you and people like you.

  8. Jessica Levandoski says:

    Thank you for this. Right on point.

    I’m a film festival director in Bloomington, IN and I’m fighting to keep people on board who are from out of state because of the passage of SB101.

    Most people are waiting for this to “blow over”, and it will, but the damage has been done and if we put up with this, politicians will push to see what else we will put up with.

    I am fighting hard to stay put, but if my businesses cannot thrive here I will have no choice but to leave. Hopefully, writing like this will reach folks who would rather just keep their heads down until it “blows over.”

    Thank you.

    Here’s my film festival website for anyone who is interested in supporting or coming to it this summer!

    http://www.middlecoastfest.com

  9. Pamela says:

    Very well said – as a fellow Hoosier, who was brought up to be nice, I could not have said this any better. Thanks for your voice! I will make mine heard.

  10. Jody Wiseman says:

    Thank you for giving voice to all of us who are disgusted by this legislation and for your spot on advice about how to address it.

  11. Jody says:

    Could you please explain who is being “targeted” by this law? What are Hoosiers who support this law supposed to do? I was just in Chicago this weekend and nearly every store I went into had a sign banning hand guns, should I have made a scene as you described? No, I chose to still go in, you see I’m bigger that that, and I guess your not. Please be reminded the 2nd amendment assures my the right to bare arms.

    • Laurie McKnight says:

      Jody, This is about discriminating against people because of who they are and how they love, not about the 2nd amendment and your “right” to carry a weapon. YOU’RE missing the point.

    • Robert says:

      Jody, The Supreme Court, as misguided as it has been in its jurisprudence on the 2nd Amendment, does recognize that states and municipalities can reasonably restrict your right to keep and bear arms. Are you worried that not being allowed to bring your gun into a Walmart or a Wendy’s will impede your well regulated militia?

    • Mim says:

      Yes, you have the right to go sleeveless and bare your arms, but I assume that the no shirt, no shoes, no service rule stands for everyone.

  12. Gordon Stewart says:

    A group of friends planned a four-day annual gathering this May in Indianapolis at one of the schools which I’m sure opposes this horrid legislation. I promise that everywhere we go, he six of us will ask this question of the establishment and make our decisions accordingly. We are from Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, and Indiana. Thank you for this thoughtful invitation to action.

    • Debbie says:

      Presidents from Butler, DePauw, and IU have all spoken against the bill. Bloomington, in particular, is very open to all.

  13. Wendy Schmidt says:

    Dear Amelila,
    I also plan to come to the Hoosier State to see Regulars and Refugee’s. I will be writing to those that passed this. As an out lesbian I don’t like to go where it’s not safe for me. I’m used to making people uncomfortable and I don’t plan to stop now. Thank you for the kick in the ass I needed! Wendy Schmidt!

  14. Jo Ann says:

    Here’s an idea for heightening the awkwardness: Two engaged gay Presbyterians try to order flowers or wedding cake etc. for their wedding. When the proprietor refuses “on religious grounds,” the Presbyterians can say their own religious beliefs are being restricted and they’re going to sue. Because, Presbyterians!

  15. Mike says:

    You, and those who follow you, should read this law very carefully. There are many articles that are based more on emotion that fact. The fact is that the US federal government has an RFRA signed into law in 1993 by Pres. Clinton that applies these basic principles to federal law in 1993. There are now 20 states, now including Indiana, who have RFRA’s, all roughly the same with major differences based on wording of State law. Finally, 11 states have RFRA-like laws based on State Supreme Court decisions. If the US Federal Government and 31 States have substantially the same law, what, specifically, is the problem in Indiana?

    • Debbie says:

      I’ve read the law carefully and the law in 19 states. They have protections to prevent discrimination. On national television today, Pence refused to say that Indiana would not discriminate. He was asked 6 times.

  16. SG says:

    Go ahead make a horses butt out of yourself. You he the one looking foolish. For every one of you there are many that support this bill.

  17. Bryan says:

    “We can ask the stores we patronize if they serve everyone. We can walk out if their answer is anything but, ‘yes.’”

    Isn’t that discrimination?

    • Parker J. Palmer says:

      No. That’s consumer choice, and it’s legal. Discrimination is not legal, or shouldn’t be…

      • Bryan says:

        But choosing one over the other *is* discrimination, whether it’s on the part of the consumer or the seller. If I choose not to shop at a particular store because of the values of the owner, I am discriminating. It might be legal, but it’s the same type of choice as if the vendor refused my business because of my values.

        • Parker J. Palmer says:

          I don’t normally chat online with people who don’t post their full names. But since I know some good guys named Bryan — and there’s evidence that you’re one of them in your calm and measured prose — I’ll chance it one more time.

          Clearly, we “discriminate” legally in everyday life by choosing to buy this tie instead of that one, by preferring roses over daffodils, or by deciding not to shop at a particular store because it’s owned and operated by racists. All of that is legal because “we” refers to individuals like you and me with certain protected freedoms of choice.

          But in the law, most businesses are regarded as “public accommodations.” In such settings it is not legal for the owner to say “I’ll serve her but not him because he believes or represents something I don’t agree with” — unless that person is behaving in a way that threatens persons or property.

          This issue was effectively decided at lunch counters across the south in the 1950s and 60s. It has nothing to do with freedom of religion, for which I am a fierce advocate. It has everything to do with freedom from bigotry.

          For the sake of full disclosure, I’m a straight, white, male Christian of the Quaker variety. My spiritual ancestors were persecuted by Christians of the ruling class who’d come here from England “in search of religious freedom.” One of those ancestors, Mary Dyer, was hanged on Boston Common by the leaders of church and state — there was no distinction in those days — who were threatened by her seditious belief in “the indwelling Christ.”

          So I’m a huge fan of the separation of church and state when it comes to personal religious belief and the freedom to express it in ways that don’t harm others. But when fellow Christians talk about “religious freedom” I want to know exactly what they mean, for reasons I’m sure you’ll understand.

          P.S. Here I’m not responding to you, Bryan, but to other posters who regard people like me as Communists waging a War on Religion that’s bent on bringing Christianity down: If the Christian church (of which I am a member) is in the process of falling apart, no outside enemy is required. Some Christians are doing a very good job of destroying the church from within.

  18. Jane says:

    Well said – because Pence has presidential aspirations, we need to make sure people know what kind of “leader” he is. We also need for people outside of Indiana to know that the anger and frustration doesn’t just come from this bill, but 20 years of effort by a group of “leaders” to force their religious beliefs on everyone instead of keeping them in their church!

    • Joseph Greene says:

      How is respecting civil rights of all persons persecution. Can you honestly say that you believe that discriminatory behavior, using the veil of the sociological construct of religion, is moral, or ethical? We should tolerate hateful behavior just because someone wants to claim it’s religious? Hate, fear and psychological violence are not the tenets of any religion I have studied. Those practicing such may claim it, but it is a thinly veiled lie. The wording of the law was left openly broad to allow civil liberties violations based on such a lie. Were it better worded to protect the civil liberties of individuals, I might even support it, but it was not. That is why this law is an abomination.

  19. Stuart Laird says:

    My RV was in the shop south of Indianapolis. I picked it up this morning, and I did so without spending one penny in Indiana (work under warranty).
    Only patronizing accepting businesses is fine if you live there, but I’m from Champaign, IL, and there’s no reason for me to go to Indiana to get my RV serviced.
    Today, I gassed up in Illinois and packed my own lunch and bevs. Your store may welcome all, but the tax dollars that your store collects go to the state government which is where this damned thing came from.
    Not one cent for Indiana.

  20. Liz Opp says:

    I live in Minnesota, the first state in the U.S. to defeat a proposed anti-GLBTQ marriage amendment. We did it in large part because of what the 30 states before us had failed to do: talk about specific people who we knew who would be negatively impacted by the amendment had it gone through.

    We also asked everyone we knew if they knew anyone who was gay, lesbian, or in a committed same-sex relationship. When they said yes, we asked them if they would want the person they knew to be faced with the consequences of the amendment.

    In a word, we had those difficult and awkward conversations. And it worked.

    But it worked in large part because GLBTQ people came out to friends, family, coworkers, classmates, and strangers. Many came out all over again.

    And it worked because we asked folks to identify and talk with us about the actual people they knew–not about an abstract ideal like “justice” or “equality” or even “fairness.”

    And it worked because we allowed our fellow Minnesotans the space to be on their own journey–the one that might have required more time than the situation would have allowed. But in some ways, it’s the journey that is more important in the end, not the destination.

    That said, we were effective because we used both compassion and strategic challenge in order to make the most out of such an awkward moment.

    And we had a million conversations, quite literally, over the course of a little bit over a year.

    I’m so very sorry that the whole “Freedom To Marry” and marriage equality movement wasn’t able to lend its support and strategy early enough to Indiana to defeat this dehumanizing measure.

    But it’s never too late to start a conversation and get our neighbors thinking a bit more critically about these issues.

    Blessings,
    Liz, <a href="http://thegoodraisedup.blogspot.com"The Good Raised Up

    PS. I also wrote some about Minnesota’s early work to defeat the marriage amendment.

  21. Liz Opp says:

    I live in Minnesota, the first state in the U.S. to defeat a proposed anti-GLBTQ marriage amendment. We did it in large part because of what the 30 states before us had failed to do: talk about specific people who we knew who would be negatively impacted by the amendment had it gone through.

    We also asked everyone we knew if they knew anyone who was gay, lesbian, or in a committed same-sex relationship. When they said yes, we asked them if they would want the person they knew to be faced with the consequences of the amendment.

    In a word, we had those difficult and awkward conversations. And it worked.

    But it worked in large part because GLBTQ people came out to friends, family, coworkers, classmates, and strangers. Many came out all over again.

    And it worked because we asked folks to identify and talk with us about the actual people they knew–not about an abstract ideal like “justice” or “equality” or even “fairness.”

    And it worked because we allowed our fellow Minnesotans the space to be on their own journey–the one that might have required more time than the situation would have allowed. But in some ways, it’s the journey that is more important in the end, not the destination.

    That said, we were effective because we used both compassion and strategic challenge in order to make the most out of such an awkward moment.

    And we had a million conversations, quite literally, over the course of a little bit over a year.

    I’m so very sorry that the whole “Freedom To Marry” and marriage equality movement wasn’t able to lend its support and strategy early enough to Indiana to defeat this dehumanizing measure.

    But it’s never too late to start a conversation and get our neighbors thinking a bit more critically about these issues.

    Blessings,
    Liz, The Good Raised Up

    PS. I also wrote some about Minnesota’s early work to defeat the marriage amendment.

  22. Diana Kane says:

    Thank you. It takes all sorts of people to carry a message to the people. Yours was respectful, kind, and inspirational. Thank you for your gentle call to action and thank you for standing up for my human rights. Some of us have been in this struggle for longer than you’ve been around. It’s refreshing to know there are folks like you who will carry the message long after I’m no longer able.
    ~peace

  23. Wendy Schmidt says:

    Amelia – I was up this morning and began the day with the day really thinking hard about what you wrote. It’s still painful in this day and time that hate crimes are designed as a way to keep our country “safe” during a time when we need safe schools, wipe out suicides, especially ones that LGBTQ kids/teens. I would love to carry these conversations on with you. If your willing, I will give you my e-mail and phone number in a private message!
    Thanks Amelia!

  24. Parker J. Palmer says:

    Thank you, Amelia, for this powerful post, which I’m sharing as widely as I can. You’re part of a great tradition of people who have worked to make it “viscerally, horribly, deeply uncomfortable” for injustice to stand. America recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when the widely-televised brutal police assaults on nonviolent protestors made “We the People” so uncomfortable that the 1965 Voting Rights Act was finally passed a few months later. Alongside your post, I also appreciate what Liz Opp posted here earlier today. Via my straight, gay and lesbian friends in Minnesota, I know what she says is true. This, I think, is one of the paradoxes of nonviolent social change: when confrontation and compassion go hand-in-hand, the arc of the moral universe bends a bit more toward justice. As for the responses to your post that contain more heat than light, take them as a sign that you’re on the right track. Discomfort indeed! Thank you again for your not-so-small flashlight in the dark…

  25. Joseph Greene says:

    This is exactly why I will be running for office. Simply making it uncomfortable with public speech (which I FULLY endorse) is not sufficient in a state where those who would make such laws run for office, often are unopposed. We the people must put those who do not represent the people on the sidelines where they belong.

  26. Rob says:

    You are a warrior against religion. And that goes for all of you heathen communists who agree with this War on Religion. Hopefully, when you rally in the streets, there will be a giant earthquake and swallow all of you losers up inside the bowels of the Earths core.

  27. Robert says:

    Amelia, Thank you for your eloquent essay. Civil and non-violent disobedience is certainly called for in this case and will be one of the best ways for us Hoosiers to voice our disagreement with SB101 until the next election. As an owner of a downtown Indianapolis small business, I am especially horrified by this legislation and would point out that Pence disingenuously pointed to many examples where liberals had signed different state and federal RFRA versions. One key difference, as in Illinois, is that countervailing civil rights protections existed with many of those laws. I appreciate you writing about this important subject and encourage you to continue voicing your opinions strongly and in your expressive style!

  28. Carrie Newcomer says:

    Thank you for this insightful and important essay. Like Parker J. Palmer, I am sharing it as widely as I can. The RFRA in Indiana is legally different, it broadens the definition of “person” from individuals to organizations and businesses (for-profit and non-profit). Thank you for articulating so beautifully for those of us dedicated to intelligent dialogue and non violence that speaking out about injustice and discrimination is not “bad manners” or “reverse discrimination”. When we tell our truth with love and honestly, when we sincerely say, “Your policies hurt me, hurt people I love, hurt our communities,” we are practicing the best of who and what we are as individuals and as a community. I’m grateful for your vision, voice and courage.

  29. Lydia says:

    Without this law do we not take away a persons right to a spiritual conscience and get one step closer to the destruction of Christianity?

  30. Sally says:

    With disappointment and anger I long to turn my back on the issue. On my trips to my sister’s in Potomac, Illinois I still want to stop at the BP Station at Fair Oaks. But, I cannot. I may be a Michigander, but this is also our issue to fight. Amelia, you have done a wonderful job of pointing that out to me. Thank you.

  31. Tom DeZell says:

    Amelia, Thank you for speaking about our fear of bringing all that is uncomfortable into the light. Only in the honest reflection that light brings can we change. I Love the words of Richard Rohr when he emphatically states that in our world “either there is room for all of us or there is not room for any of us.” We have walk for so long but I am afraid that we have not traveled very far. Thank you for today, restoring my faith filled heart.

  32. Jenny b says:

    This is a great call to action. The confusion is clearing with Pence’s refusal to come out and state on national tv that he supports protections and equality. Actions are important, and hoosiers are fired up!
    We are #everyoneiswelcome at the Kinsey Institute…xox

  33. Sharon says:

    We are all sinners, according to the Bible. Perhaps we should make t-shirts – I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner, he’s a sinner, she’s a sinner – and then go shopping in Indiana. Jesus has far more to say about hypocrisy than homosexuality. If God doesn’t differentiate between sins, we shouldn’t either.
    Great article!

  34. William Alexander says:

    Thank You Amelia! This is MOST inspiring and I hope that many will take your words to heart and act on them! Please know that you are appreciated very much!

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