Thoughts on Indiana

When I left Indiana in 1998 I did not look back. It's an easy state to forget about, honestly. From the perspective of the national narrative we're not a swing state, there are no major cities and the last major political embarrassment was Dan Quayle. It's the South Dakota of the great lakes region.

When Indiana enacted RFRA my reaction was not shock or outrage. Georgia, my current home and equally red state, was considering something similar. It's something you learn to accept in a red state, like when Georgia amended its constitution to legally refuse to recognize gay marriage sometime in 2005. You can get angry, and you should voice your opinion, however the general feeling is that these ideologically driven laws eventually make their way to the supreme court and are thrown out by Justice Kennedy and the liberal judges. The south is ten years behind the rest of America. Barring anything game changing that sways public opinion against gays, the future of the gay rights movement is relatively secure even if it doesn't move at the same pace in all parts of the country.

What blows my mind is that people are talking about Indiana. I have family there and until these last few weeks I had no idea who the governor was. I'm sure national attention is a new experience for many Hoosiers. In all fairness no one likely imagined the national outrage over this kind of legislation. Indiana was just unlucky in that they were the first to pass it. But it's been amazing to see corporations from Salesforce to Apple to step up for social activism.

There has been a real and sudden shift in the conversation around gay rights which is great. I'm a cynical person and this sort of thing gives me hope.

That said, gay rights has become an easy cause to support. Businesses have discovered that they profit more from taking PR-friendly progressive stances than they lose by angering evangelical conservatives. While wage discrimination persists against trans and gay people of color, as of data from 2013 the average household income of gays and lesbians has actually risen slightly  against that of different sex couples (*I don't 100% buy this but there is the perception). Pair that with the discretionary income from not having children and it's a no brainer. Supporting gay rights earns the fierce loyalty of gay professionals, who up until recently felt marginalized, while projecting socially progressive attitudes.

It is much harder to translate that synergy of feel good progressiveness and bottom line finance to more difficult issues of social inequality, where the people hurt by public policy do not carry the perception of affluence. Or perhaps have been categorically denied the opportunity to succeed in life because of race or gender identity.

My prediction is Indiana will water down RFRA, even though the law was symbolic legislation that would never have held up to legal challenge. Meanwhile 'Stand your ground' laws in Florida are still on the books, even in the wake of their scandal. (Indiana also has a 'stand your ground' law btw... and you can't buy alcohol on Sunday.)

We should most certainly celebrate each victory for the equal recognition of everyone under the law. But, we shouldn't forget that America has fatal inconsistencies with how we treat some of our citizens. My hope is that legislatures could come to these realizations without the Supreme Court or strongly worded letters from the one percent. A more realistic hope is that corporations feel good enough about the positive vibes from the recently low-risk support of gay rights to start branching out into more dangerous territory.


Mike bode is the author of The Queen of Lies, the first installment in the ongoing series, Architects of the Grand Design. His next book comes out October. Sign up for the mailing list for more info. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest . (You can also follow him on Goodreads and even Amazon)

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