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Youth Story Collection

For the last three years, LGBTQ youth and allies have gathered at the Statehouse at the beginning of the session for Youth Advocacy Day, an opportunity for them to ensure their voices are heard at the highest levels of state government. Attendees are encouraged to speak with their representatives about a range of issues, including the need for statewide LGBTQ civil rights protections, a hate crimes bill, and inclusive health education.

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For Father’s Day: LGBT Hoosiers Celebrate Dads Who Are With Them In The Movement For Equality

June 14, 2017 by admin

To say that coming out to friends and family is a pivotal emotional moment in an LGBT person’s life is almost an understatement.

Perhaps no moment is more fraught with conflicting feelings: relief and joy at being able to share publicly an important part of your identity, but also fear and unease at whether or not that identity will be accepted by those closest to you.

And for close family—including fathers—those emotions can be multiplied tenfold. The conversation sometimes isn’t easy, but afterward, the bond between fathers and their children can be even stronger, and that’s what we’re celebrating with three stories for Father’s Day.

***

Kit Malone & Her Father, Daniel

Kit’s father Daniel has been a strong supportive presence throughout her life. His reaction when she declared, before starting college, that she was going to study acting, was a typical one: sage advice, and a signal that he respected her choice.

“He didn’t bat an eye,” Kit says, remembering the words that have gotten her through other big life decisions. “‘You’ll always be more successful doing something you love than trapped in something you hate. I want you to always choose something you love.’”

Kit never became an actor. Instead, she found her calling as a teacher, and now works as an educator and advocacy consultant with the ACLU of Indiana. Her father’s support as she navigated her career didn’t waver.

“My father understands the importance of love above all things. And even as we’ve navigated the finer points of names and pronouns and everything else big and small … his has never wavered.” –Kit Malone

So 20 years later, when she sat her father down to tell him she was transgender, she wasn’t surprised at his reaction. It was the same steady support she had come to expect.

“My father understands the importance of love above all things,” she says. “And even as we’ve navigated the finer points of names and pronouns and everything else big and small … his has never wavered.”

***

Satchuel Cole & Her Father, Lee 

Satchuel Cole has a similar memory of coming out to her father, Lee Timeless Barnes. His acceptance of her was unquestioning. And that, she says, was so important for her to have during a time in her life when she was trying to answer a lot of questions for herself.  

She felt her father’s acceptance intrinsically, even though, she says, they never had “the talk.”

“I never had a coming out conversation with my Dad,” she says. “Our relationship didn’t work that way. Some days I brought home guys, and some days it was girls. And my Dad never blinked an eye.”

Understanding and acceptance—and that included accepting his daughter’s sexual orientation—was something her father taught by showing and doing, rather than any explicit conversation.

“He taught us that love is love and that’s that. And I feel very lucky for that. Thanks Dad for being beyond amazing!” –Satchuel Cole

“He taught us that love is love and that’s that,” she says. “To this day, I have never had an actual conversation strictly about me being queer with my Dad. I never needed to. And I feel very lucky for that. Thanks Dad for being beyond amazing!”

***

Kyle Casteel and His Father, Jeff

Kyle Casteel’s story is a little different. He didn’t feel that immediate acceptance when he told his father, Jeff, that he was gay.

He was 14, and told his mother first because he was convinced his father wouldn’t love him any more if he knew he was gay. A few weeks later, though, he did tell his dad.

“It wasn’t easy. We didn’t talk about it much,” he says, remembering the emotional ambiguity of their initial conversation. His father didn’t stop loving him, but Kyle still wasn’t sure where they stood.

That changed in high school. After coming out, Kyle helped start a Gay-Straight Alliance. During his senior year, Kyle organized a public meeting for the parents of the club’s members. Kyle’s father came, and made it clear he was proud of his son.

“I’m a proud conservative, a father and a grandfather, and I believe in freedom for all Hoosiers regardless of what they believe, who they are, or who they love.” –Jeff Casteel

Since then, Jeff has gotten more vocal in his support.

“I’m a proud conservative, a father and a grandfather, and I believe in freedom for all Hoosiers regardless of what they believe, who they are, or who they love,” he says. That’s especially true when it comes to his family.

“I have four kids and I love them all for the unique, independent people that they are,” he says. “Kyle has always been passionate about fighting for his community, and even though I haven’t always agreed with him on the issues, I’m proud of him and think he and his friends deserve the same rights that I enjoy.”

“Even though we don’t see eye to eye on much, I never doubt that my Dad supports me for who I am and respects what I’m fighting for.” –Kyle Casteel

Kyle and his dad still disagree on a lot. His father is conservative, and Kyle is more liberal. But there’s no debate in their house about how LGBT people should be treated: With respect, and with equal rights.

“Even though we don’t see eye to eye on much, I never doubt that my Dad supports me for who I am and respects what I’m fighting for—a world that loves and accepts queer people as much as much as he loves and accepts me.”

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Worker Story Collection

June 8, 2017 by admin

Because Indiana law does not have explicit LGBT-inclusive civil rights protections, LGBT Hoosiers have long had to worry about being discriminated against by employers. Being fired, denied a promotion, or overlooked for a job just because of who you are or who you love, is an unfortunate fact of life for LGBT people.

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Faith Story Collection

June 8, 2017 by admin

Hoosiers are well acquainted with public policy purporting to be about “religious freedom” that in reality serves as a smokescreen for anti-LGBT discrimination. The so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act that roiled the legislature in 2015 has inspired similar attacks in subsequent years, both in Indiana and around the country. Many Hoosiers of faith, though, say discrimination is not congruent with God’s teachings of love and acceptance—and are upset that their faith frequently used to support state-sanctioned discrimination.

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Teachers Story Collection

May 24, 2017 by admin

Adolescence can be a tough time for anyone, but for LGBT youth, teenage years can be even more trying. Teachers have a critical role to play in combating hostile situations and helping LGBT youth find acceptance and community—even in communities where they themselves are not protected from discrimination.

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People with Disabilities Story Collection

May 23, 2017 by admin

No one should face discrimination because of who they are. While the federal Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with disabilities from discrimination, there are no federal or statewide civil rights laws that similarly protect people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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7th Circuit Court Set to Hear Oral Arguments Starting Today In Case That Could Secure Same-Sex Couples’ Parental Rights

May 22, 2017 by admin

Today, the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit will begin hearing oral arguments in the case of eight same-sex Indiana couples who sued the state for the right to have the names of both parents printed on their child’s birth certificate.

In January, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill’s office announced it would appeal a lower court ruling from last June that found in favor of these couples. Before that ruling, Indiana law did not allow for two mothers to be listed on a child’s birth certificate—only one mother, and one father.

Donnica Barrett, a plaintiff in the case, didn’t know about any of these legal issues when her son was born. She was mostly worried about the health and safety of herself and their child, who was born 5 weeks early because of complications with her pregnancy.

Thankfully, she said, the doctors and nurses provided excellent care, and everything went as smoothly as it possibly could have—until it came time to submit the official documents. Donnica was informed the State Board of Health would not accept the form with her wife’s name and information where the “father’s” should go.

“Having spent the last 48 hours awake with a new baby in the NICU, to have her parenthood questioned at such a vulnerable time was overwhelming.”

“This case is about protecting him first, not us. He is our life. The state’s job is to promote to protection of Indiana families, and our children are its most vulnerable citizens.” –Donnica Barrett, plaintiff

In addition to the emotional toll it took on her family that day, Donnica worried about her son’s future—what harm might come of him if his legal right to have the protection of both his parents continued to be challenged by the state?

“This case is about protecting him first, not us,” she says. “He is our life. The state’s job is to promote to protection of Indiana families, and our children are its most vulnerable citizens.”

This worry was at the top of many other parents’ minds too. That’s why, in 2015, Donnica, her wife, Nikkole, and seven other lesbian couples sued the state to overturn the current birth certificate policy, which, in addition to having no allowance for same-sex parents, automatically lists their children as “born out of wedlock”—a situation that has caused much legal confusion and emotional hardship.

That’s because, AG Hill claims, Indiana law only provides two ways for parents to obtain legal status relating to their children. One of those is to have a biological connection—an obvious hurdle for LGBT couples, including plaintiffs Calle and Sarah Janson, who used a donor to conceive their daughter, Finley.

They’ve been together through everything, Calle says, and it’s absolutely ridiculous that the law is keeping them apart, legally, in the most important thing they’ve ever done together: raising their daughter.  

“Sarah and I made the decision to start a family together, we chose the donor together, we both cried tears of joy when we found out we were expecting and she was there every step of the pregnancy,” Calle says. “While I labored, she was literally the shoulders that I leaned on. She deserves to bear all the legal responsibilities and protections as Finley’s other mother.”

“If two parents are available to a child, and love that child, that child deserves to have that protection.” –Calle Janson, plaintiff

Calle says Finley also deserves better—she and other children of same-sex couples deserve to have both parents, whose love for their children is just as strong, recognized as such.

“If two parents are available to a child, and love that child, that child deserves to have that protection.”

The other way a non-birth parent can gain legal rights over her child is to go through the long, cumbersome process of adoption. However, this is something that opposite-sex married couples don’t have to do, even if their children are conceived through means that don’t confer an automatic biological relationship, like artificial insemination.

Lyndsey and Cathy Bannick, two other plaintiffs in the case, have looked at legal adoption, but say the cost and process is prohibitive.  

“Besides the obvious equal rights protection, this case is especially important to our family for Cathy to be seen as an equal mother and protected just the same in all facets of life,” says Lyndsey. 

Lyndsey gave birth to the couple’s first child, Hayden, two years ago, and is due to give birth to their second in July. They’ve been in a committed relationship for eight years, legally married for four years, and made the decision to have and raise kids as a team. Despite that, under current law, Cathy has to fight to be seen as Hayden’s mom by the state.

“This case is especially important to our family for Cathy to be seen as an equal mother and protected just the same in all facets of life. Cathy would finally be seen as a second legal parent of our children.” –Lyndsey Bannick, plaintiff

In fact, she actually has to carry around extra paperwork drawn up by lawyers to “prove” that she is Hayden’s mother.

Lyndsey says that with a win in this case, “Cathy would finally be seen as a second legal parent of our children, without having to go through the costly adoption and home studies,” a process she thinks is absurd for a legally married couple who made a choice to have children together.

Parental rights are the bedrock of safety and stability for Hoosier families, including families led by LGBT parents. These include being able to make educational and medical decisions for their children, and claim their children as dependents for insurance and tax purposes. It also includes the right to inheritance, the lack of which makes many LGBT parents worry about how they would provide for their children in the event of their deaths.

Opposite-sex couples don’t face these hurdles. This week, plaintiffs will argue that means their rights are being violated under the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Last June, the lower court agreed. But now that decision is in doubt, and if it is overturned, families will be thrown into chaos.

Already, thousands of Hoosiers have emailed AG Hill about dropping this attack on LGBT families. If you haven’t sent your message yet, click here to make your voice heard.

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For Mother’s Day: Hoosier Moms on How LGBT-Inclusive Civil Rights Protections Could Help Their Families Thrive

May 10, 2017 by admin

As Mother’s Day approaches, Freedom Indiana is highlighting the stories of moms for whom the fight to protect all LGBT Hoosiers from discrimination is a very personal one.

Hoosier Moms for Freedom is diverse coalition of moms who worry every day that their gay or transgender sons and daughters could be discriminated against by landlords, employers, business owners and other service providers just because of who they are.

The Ohio River Valley Pride Coalition, started by local moms to help their transgender children find an accepting community.

Two of those moms are Oretha Vest and Shelly Eldridge-Snyder, co-founders of the Ohio River Valley Pride Coalition. Both are parents of transgender children who started the Coalition—along with their other co-founder, Amanda Vinup-Noell—to help other LGBT children and their parents find acceptance and community.

“Its infuriating, knowing that many things in her life will be more difficult because she is trans. Things we take for granted, like going to the women’s restroom. My goal is to change that for future trans kids and their parents. Not only trans individuals, but all LBGTQI people.” –Shelly Eldridge-Snyder, ORVPRIDE Co-Founder

Now, the Coalition has blossomed into one of the fastest-growing LGBT community organizations in Southern Indiana.

“Its infuriating, knowing that many things in her life will be more difficult because she is trans,” Shelly said of her daughter. “Things we take for granted, like going to the women’s restroom. My goal is to change that for future trans kids and their parents. Not only trans individuals, but all LBGTQI people.”

Melissa Bickel is another one of those moms. The Bickel’s oldest child, Olivia, is transgender. That means that at birth Olivia was assigned the gender of male, but for as long as her family can remember—and as long as she could express herself—Olivia had an unbending desire to live as a girl. Melissa worries about her daughter, and how Indiana’s lack of non-discrimination protections will impact her future:

Melissa-and-Olivia

Melissa Bickel with her family, including Olivia (center).

“You’re always thinking: Is something going to happen? Imagine being scared to just be yourself and go about your life, and not just fear of being ridiculed, but fear of discrimination, violence and in some cases death,” she said. “This can be transgender person’s everyday reality. As a mom, I want my daughter to be able to do regular things like go to the mall, and later I want her to be able to get a job. And I want her to be able to do that anywhere she feels comfortable.”

“As a mom, I want my daughter to be able to do regular things like go to the mall, and later I want her to be able to get a job. And I want her to be able to do that anywhere she feels comfortable.” –Melissa Bickel

Sheila York is now contending with worries that her transgender son Drake could have a hard time finding a job because he is transgender. Drake is a full-time student who is about to start his post-college job search—a situation that is hard enough on new graduates, without throwing worries about discrimination into the mix.

Sheila-and-Drake

Sheila York and her son, Drake.

“My son means the world to me, and I want to make sure he has every opportunity that everyone else has,” Sheila says. “It would really help to know my son had the same protections as everyone else in Indiana.”

When asked about the RFRA bill that passed two years ago, Sheila said “I don’t think that law matched how people feel.” In fact, despite what proponents of this license to discriminate claim, many are driven by their faith to ensure all people are protected from discrimination.

“My son means the world to me, and I want to make sure he has every opportunity that everyone else has,” Sheila says. “It would really help to know my son had the same protections as everyone else in Indiana.” –Sheila York

Indianapolis residents Michelle and Stephanie are a case in point. According to Michelle, “We are Christians, we were both raised Christians, and we believe in treating other people as they’d like to be treated.” Public polling has shown that a strong majority of Hoosiers support non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, including many Republicans and people of faith.

Together they are raising three sons—one four-year-old and two-year-old twins. As Michelle, who is currently a full-time mom, prepares to re-enter the workforce, she’s hoping Indiana’s laws soon catch up to what she hears from many employers: That they’re serious when they say they don’t discriminate.

“As the boys grow up, I’ll be returning to work. I want to know that when I’m looking for work to provide for my family, I’m not being discriminated because of the make-up of our family.” –Michelle, Indianapolis

Michelle-Stephanie-family

Michelle (right), Stephanie, and their family.

Non-discrimination protections, she says, would help her family immensely during this fast-changing time in their lives.

“As the boys grow up, I’ll be returning to work. I want to know that when I’m looking for work to provide for my family, I’m not being discriminated because of the make-up of our family,” she said. “I’ve been very impressed by the employers who say they don’t discriminate and really mean it. Now it’s time for the state as a whole to catch up. It should be about ‘Can you do the job?’ not about what your family portrait looks like.”

We couldn’t agree more. You can find more inspiring stories from Hoosier Moms for Freedom on our website. And if you agree that it’s time for Indiana’s laws to catch up to reality and protect LGBT moms and their sons and daughters, contact your legislators.

Click here to tell them you support the simple solution: adding four words and a comma—“sexual orientation, gender identity”—to existing civil rights laws to address LGBT non-discrimination protections for all Hoosiers.

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In the Wake of Trump’s Executive Order, Hoosiers of Faith Speak Out Against State-Sanctioned Discrimination

May 9, 2017 by admin

President Donald Trump’s signing last week of an executive order that could encourage the use of religion as an excuse for anti-LGBT discrimination has fair-minded Hoosiers speaking out on what it eans to be an LGBT person of faith.

Hoosiers are well acquainted with public policy purporting to be about “religious freedom” that in reality serves as a smokescreen for anti-LGBT discrimination. The so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act that roiled the legislature here in 2015 has inspired similar attacks in subsequent years, both in Indiana and around the country.

Many Hoosiers of faith, though, say discrimination is not congruent with God’s teachings of love and acceptance—and are upset that their faith frequently used to support state-sanctioned discrimination.

Rima Khan-Shahid, who recently spoke at the Murat Shrine in Indianapolis during a memorial for the Orlando shooting victims, said it’s important to remember the golden rule of all faiths—to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

“I urge people to get to know their own faith. I often refer to the prophet Muhammad’s last sermon: ‘We are all the same in the eyes of God.’ We cannot use our faiths to justify discrimination. People too often use God to justify horror and terror. Allah has 99 names and all reflect the idea that God is loving and merciful. I would love to spread the message of a peaceful and loving God.” –Rima Khan-Shahid, Indianapolis

She made it clear that her faith teaches that all people have a right to live safely and peacefully in their communities—and that using the law as a tool for hatred and discrimination “enables people to carry out these horrific acts.”

Sister Estelle Irene Kinkade Wilson, who serves as a Celibate Solitary Sister of the Episcopal Church and currently attends Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, has personally felt the sting of state-sanctioned discrimination. She says she is “tired of being [labeled] legal or illegal over something that has absolutely nothing to do with government.” Acceptance of her as a transgender woman, she says, is between her and God—not the government.

Estelle has been a regular attendee at Christ Church for 8 years, and has never flagged in her attendance, even after she was publicly outed by another attendee. After that incident, Christ Church’s bishop worked hard to make Estelle feel welcome. Now, she works as a sort of ambassador for other LGBT people who might find their way to Christ Church.

“I want to make this journey easier for the next person. Everyone has a meaning. God doesn’t make trash; we make trash. I was made in God’s image. I needed to transition to live. I want all my trans brothers and sisters to know that I’m here and if they want a place to worship, they can come to Christ Church Cathedral.” –Sister Estelle Irene Kinkade Wilson, Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis

Both Estelle and Rima hope that lawmakers will move away from these legal attacks on LGBT Americans, and instead focus on implementing a statewide civil rights law that would protect LGBT people, as well as people of faith, from discrimination.

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LGBT Hoosiers on the Dual Discrimination that Comes from Also Living with Disabilities

May 5, 2017 by admin

LGBT people with disabilities often have, as Elizabeth Longcore says, “two coming outs” associated with both of their identities—for her, that’s as a lesbian woman and someone who identifies as non-neurotypical.

Elizabeth, who works with autistic children as a behavioral therapist and serves as the Director of the Global Accessibility Project—which advises the Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities—says that across our culture, disability is misunderstood and mistreated.

This is true even in the LGBT community, where most people are sensitive to issues of discrimination. Being queer and disabled, she says, means living with even more social and familial rejection, legal limitations, loss of professional opportunities, and discrimination.

“If we are truly committed to advancing civil rights protections for people that are LGBTQ, which inevitably requires the support of allies, then we must first direct our coalition-building efforts to within our own community by engaging in a serious dialogue that highlights the many different ways that queer culture rejects our own gatekeepers to other communities via their intersectional identities.”  –Elizabeth Longcore (left), with her wife and two daughters.

And, she says, there are levels of privilege in both communities. Having an “invisible disability”—something that wouldn’t be obvious unless she volunteered the information does provide a “sense of privilege, in that I am not necessarily treated as a person with a disability.”

Mel Andis, who identifies as transmasculine, knows this too, both as someone who is gender non-binary, partially deaf and visually impaired. These disabilities require a level of accommodation that make them obvious to everyone Mel meets, a fact that leaves Mel dealing with discrimination on a regular basis.

“In my world discrimination is very hurtful because I have lost friends and people who I truly trusted and cared about because they treat me differently. One issue that I get as a deaf queer individual is that hearing people just do not understand how hard it is to hear. Just treat people like you would want to be treated. People with disabilities are just like everyone else and we deserve that right to be called what we wish and be treated like normal humans.” –Mel Andis

Jared Price, who lives with his partner Derek of 7 years in Terre Haute, is also visually impaired and has cerebral palsy. He echoes Mel and Elizabeth’s thoughts, saying there’s a stigma around disabilities and a severe lack of knowledge about how to treat those with disabilities.

Like Mel, he says this means people don’t really know how to approach him, and that can lead to awkward interactions. Often, when he and Derek are together in public, people will almost always talk to Derek instead of him. Derek usually has to redirect their attention and let them know that he can speak for himself. Jared says he has faced ableist and anti-gay discrimination—but it’s usually the perception of him as someone with a disability that affects him daily, and has led to some of the worst instances of discrimination.

Since Jared’s gotten a service dog though—something Derek encouraged him to do—things have improved. He thinks being with Middleton makes him more approachable.

“I wish that people would just acknowledge that we are all humans and deserving of respect. We all have our challenges, some are visible, others aren’t, but we’re all human and should be treated as such.” –Jared Price and his service dog, Middleton

No one should face discrimination because of who they are. And the federal Americans with Disabilities Act does protect people with disabilities from discrimination. But since there are no federal or statewide civil rights laws that similarly protect people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, LGBT people like Elizabeth, Mel and Jared can still find themselves evicted, denied a job or turned away from a restaurant.

Updating Indiana’s civil rights laws by adding four words and a comma—sexual orientation, gender identity—could change that.

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Fathers Story Collection

April 28, 2017 by admin

To say that coming out to friends and family is a pivotal emotional moment in an LGBT person’s life is almost an understatement.

Perhaps no moment is more fraught with conflicting feelings: relief and joy at being able to share publicly an important part of your identity, but also fear and unease at whether or not that identity will be accepted by those closest to you.

And for close family—including fathers—those emotions can be multiplied tenfold. The conversation sometimes isn’t easy, but afterward, the bond between fathers and their children can be even stronger.

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Colleges Story Collection

April 28, 2017 by admin

As the national conversation coalesces around transgender non-discrimination policies—and specifically, how those policies impact transgender students—many schools have been making a point to reiterate their commitment to equal treatment. In this regard, Indiana’s top post-secondary institutions stand out. Most explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression, and some even go several steps further.

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Mothers Story Collection

April 28, 2017 by admin

Hoosier Moms for Freedom is diverse coalition of moms who working hard every day to ensure that they and their LGBT sons and daughters can live free from the threat of discrimination. These are their stories:

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Lack of LGBT Non-Discrimination Protections Drive Workers to Seek Employment And A Better Life Outside Indiana

April 25, 2017 by admin

Hoosier hospitality is what our state is known for. But the truth is, without statewide comprehensive civil rights protections, Indiana can feel inhospitable to LGBT people. So much at times, that many LGBT people move away from Indiana because they’ve been bullied, harassed and discriminated against—a situation for which there is no remedy under state law.

Michael Carte and Molly Whitley are Hoosier expats and roommates living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they moved last year. Michael, who is gay, says Indiana never felt welcoming to him or his other gay friends. He was bullied in high school for for trying to start a Gay Student Association, and then again in college, when his roommate outed him to their entire dorm. He says he would come back from class to find anti-gay slurs scribbled on his dorm room door.

“The pure hatred for LGBT people was a daily part of my life in Indiana. Growing up, I was bullied and harassed on a near daily basis for my sexuality, even before I knew myself. It was clear at every level that Indiana was not a place where I would ever be comfortable being myself outside of the company of trusted friends. I knew I needed to get away.” –Michael Carte, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Molly isn’t gay, but says she felt the same hostility directed toward her as a woman, specifically from some of Indiana’s elected officials. She knows brain drain is a problem in her home state, and sometimes feels guilty for leaving instead of staying and working to make a difference—even though, at this point, she feels much more able to do that in Minneapolis.

“Fighting is something I’m capable of. But I wanted that energy to be channeled someplace where it was less likely to be written off by those in charge and therefore more likely to contribute to change. I commend the people who stay and work to make Indiana a place to be proud of rather than one to run away from. I wish I was that strong, and I thank you for all you do.” –Molly Whitley, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Jacob Lucas, who is gay, also moved away from Indiana to pursue his professional and personal dreams. Last year he graduated from Ball State with a degree in health science, focusing on HIV treatment and prevention. The 2015–16 HIV outbreak in southern Indiana gave Jacob the opportunity to use his education to help people in his home state, but these efforts were hamstrung by the legislature.

And when HIV prevention funds were almost diverted toward conversion therapy, he started to fear not only for his job, but for his life. He knew he had to leave. Now, Jacob works in Thurston County, Washington—which includes Olympia—as an HIV prevention coordinator.

“Although I considered Indiana home as long as I can remember, I knew that graduation was my chance to get out and I had to take it. Even though my community was in need of help that I was able to offer, proposed anti-HIV and anti-LGBT legislation made it impossible for me to do my work. I am now following my dream—something I wish Indiana had enabled me to do.” –Jacob Lucas, Olympia, Washington

While Michael and Jacob both moved out of Indiana early in their careers to states with better employment protections and opportunities, Marti Abernathy, who is transgender, spent most of her working career (she’s a radiologist) in the Hoosier state. And she has the stories of workplace discrimination to show for it.

Once, when she was starting a new job, a coworker introduced her as a “tranny.” At all of her jobs, she was repeatedly passed over for promotions for which she was more than qualified. At one particular job she was denied advancement 29 times even though her performance record was stellar. And because Indiana has no employment protections for LGBT people, there was no way for her to fight this discrimination formally. She did, however, get more involved in LGBT advocacy.

“During that early part of my transition, I saw how badly a lot of LGBT people were treated and decided I’d do what I could to fight the injustices I saw then. I always joked that radiography was my paying job, and that LGBT advocacy was my non-paying job.” –Marti Abernathy, Madison, Wisconsin

Marti moved to Madison, Wisconsin in 2009 specifically because the city has a reputation for being more accepting and welcoming of LGBT people. That doesn’t mean Marti never experienced discrimination there—a landlord kicked her out of a rental for being transgender—but Madison’s strong non-discrimination protections meant she could file a complaint with the civil rights commission and receive restitution.

“The lack of protections sends the message that Indiana is unwelcoming. After living in Madison (and now in England) I wouldn’t consider moving back without workplace and public accommodation protections. They don’t stop discrimination, but they do stop the effects of unfair treatment. They don’t give me any special rights; they just allow me to be me. I don’t expect special treatment; I just want to be treated fairly.” –Marti Abernathy, Madison, Wisconsin

That’s why Hoosiers from all walks of life, including business leaders—as members of Indiana Competes—are coming together to advocate for statewide comprehensive civil rights protections. They know for our state to attract and retain top talent, we have to affirm that Indiana is open for everyone.

Until that happens, we’ll keep pushing to make Indiana the welcoming place we know it can be.

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Indiana’s 2017 Legislative Session Ends With The Defeat of All Anti-LGBT Legislation

April 24, 2017 by admin

The message below was sent on Monday morning from Chris Paulsen, Freedom Indiana’s campaign manager.

At 12:53 am on Saturday morning, Indiana lawmakers officially adjourned for the 2017 session—and I’m proud to report: ZERO anti-LGBT bills advanced this year.

We entered this year under no false pretenses: Passing comprehensive statewide civil rights protections for LGBT Hoosiers would be a heavy and nearly impossible lift. But that didn’t stop us from meeting with lawmakers, sharing our stories and building support in communities across Indiana that discrimination has no place in our state.

And when a dangerous anti-LGBT bill did surface? Our movement sprung into action—instantly. HB 1361 would make it impossible for transgender Hoosiers to correct their birth certificates and other identity documents to match the gender they live every day.

But just one day after this horrible bill was introduced—after a flurry of media coverage while thousands of fair-minded Hoosiers spoke out to their lawmakers—the Republican chair of the committee said she would refuse to consider the bill whatsoever.

I want to be very clear: The fact that no discriminatory legislation moved in Indiana this year isn’t coincidence. It’s the direct result of the movement we’ve been building since we launched Freedom Indiana in 2013. We’ve proven to lawmakers that we are a force to be reckoned with—and we’ve ensured that there is absolutely no doubt: If harmful legislation advances, we’ll be there to stop it.

Yes, we are gravely disappointed that lawmakers failed to act on legislation protecting LGBT Hoosiers from discrimination and a long overdue bill establishing a hate crime bill in Indiana. And we want our lawmakers to know: These issues aren’t going away anytime soon. Between now and the 2018 legislative session, we’ll be here—making the case to lawmakers that there is no excuse to not act on these vital bills.

While legislative session comes to a close, we shift our focus back to passing local human rights ordinances. Last year, Indiana led the nation in passing local HRO’s—and with your help, we’ll keep growing that number.

Visit our Municipal Action Center to find out the latest and sign up to get involved in your community!

Thanks, as always, for your hard work and perseverance. Our state is stronger because of supporters like you.

Onward,

Chris Paulsen
Campaign Manager

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