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.