Today is Pride Day in Indianapolis. The parade –which I always attend– will have well over 100 entrants, representing a wide variety of government agencies, educational institutions, churches and area businesses–a far cry from the few forlorn entries in the first such effort 25 years ago.
Among other things, Pride now celebrates the legal and social progress of the LGBTQ community, which has made great strides nationally over the last couple of decades. In Indiana, it will not surprise you to discover that such progress has been considerably more spotty; cities and towns have passed inclusive Human Rights ordinances, but the state as a whole is an embarrassment on this issue (as well as on so many others.)
The very different politics of cities and rural areas with respect to LGBTQ rights has recently been highlighted by the effort of Jim Merritt–a longtime legislator now running for Mayor of Indianapolis–to “cozy up” to the gay community, and to distance himself from his “perfect” anti-gay record in Indiana’s Statehouse. Our legislature has been gerrymandered to create districts dominated by rural voters, and Merritt has pandered accordingly.
He is not alone. Indiana’s legislature has stubbornly refused to pass an inclusive bias crime bill. Efforts to add four little words–sexual orientation and gender identity– to the list of protected categories in the state’s civil rights law have gone nowhere.
Two years ago, on this blog, I posted some revelatory statistics about the legal disabilities of LGBTQ Hoosiers. The laws that facilitated those statistics haven’t changed. Here’s a smattering of what I wrote then:
Approximately 133,000 LGBT workers in Indiana are not explicitly protected from discrimination under state law…. If sexual orientation and gender identity were added to existing statewide non-discrimination laws, 61 additional complaints of discrimination would be filed with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission each year. Adding these characteristics to existing law would not be costly or burdensome for the state to enforce.
Recent polling discloses that 73% of Indiana residents support the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected class under Indiana’s existing civil rights law. That’s 73% in Very Red Indiana.
Major employers in the state have worked with civil rights and civil liberties organizations in an effort to add “four little words” to the list of categories protected under the state’s civil rights statute: sexual orientation and gender identity. So far, the legislature has exhibited zero interest in doing so.
The public outrage over Pence’s RFRA led to a subsequent “clarification” (cough cough) that the measure would not override provisions of local Human Rights Ordinances that do proscribe discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A number of city councils around the state promptly added those protections to their Ordinances, which was gratifying.
The problem, as the research points out, is twofold: municipal ordinances in Indiana don’t have much in the way of “teeth.” They are more symbolic than legally effective. Worse, for LGBTQ folks who don’t live in one of those municipalities, there are no protections at all.
The result: Only 36% of Indiana’s workforce is covered by local non-discrimination laws or executive orders that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And that discrimination occurs with depressing regularity.
– In response to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 75 percent of respondents from Indiana reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment at work, 30 percent reported losing a job, 21 percent reported being denied a promotion, and 48% reported not being hired because of their gender identity or expression at some point in their lives.
– Several recent instances of employment discrimination against LGBT people in Indiana have been documented in court cases and administrative complaints, including reports from public and private sector workers.
– Census data show that in Indiana, the median income of men in same-sex couples is 34 percent lower than that of men married to different-sex partners.
– Aggregated data from two large public opinion polls found that 79 percent of Indiana residents think that LGBT people experience a moderate amount to a lot of discrimination in the state.
Four little words. Why is that so hard?
Today, at the parade and the event itself, the community and its allies will celebrate the progress that has been made.
Monday morning, opponents of bigotry need to go back to work.