Mar 292015
 

The Editorial of the Indy (Indiana Newspaper) apologizes for the Governor’s Anti-Gay Bill.

It was a difficult, painful week in our state. Our Indiana.

The newly enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act tore us apart and plunged us into a heated, bruising argument about who we value, what we believe and what we want our state to be. And with much of the nation watching.

Sadly, it was unnecessary. Although we believe in the fundamental right of religious freedom and the need to protect that freedom, we also believe the law provides no meaningful additional safeguards of those cherished rights. The law was unneeded and destructive.

Proponents insist the law was necessary to head off what happened in states such as Washington where the courts and state government compelled small business owners, against their religious beliefs, to provide services for same-sex weddings. But that has not happened in Indiana and likely would not have. LGBT Hoosiers are not a protected class under state law here, although Marion County has a local ordinance.

Conversely, the worst fears expressed by RFRA’s opponents — that same-sex couples could, for example, be denied service in restaurants — are unlikely to play out. The new law, despite its flaws, does not give legal cover to wholesale discrimination. It is based on a federal law signed by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Nonetheless, critics see a hateful message in RFRA.

It was unfortunate that Indiana’s political leaders — starting with Gov. Mike Pence, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long — led us into this nasty dispute without justifiable cause. A potentially welcome signal came Saturday when Pence told the Indy Star that he intends to seek legislation to clarify that the new law does not discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers*. Whether he and legislative leaders go far enough remains to be seen. (Hosiers is a term for people from state of Indiana)

Where do we go from here as a state?

Let’s start with a message to the world: You are welcome here. Still. Always.

We want to share Indiana with you. We want you to come here to study and do business, to play and relax, to support your teams and enjoy the arts. And to do so without fear. Regardless of your sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or racial and ethnic heritage.

We are still the same state that welcomed the world to the Super Bowl, to the Pan Am games, and to a multitude of conventions and other events. And in doing so earned consistent praise for our hospitality and graciousness.

We are still the same state that has welcomed new businesses and their employees many times over, that has cultivated and supported an array of national sports federations and attracted the NCAA headquarters with our tax money and our enthusiasm.

And we’re still the same state that will once again welcome basketball fans from across the nation when they arrive in Indy for the NCAA Final Four this week. Come and cheer. Celebrate. And please feel welcome.

What comes next for us — the diverse collection of 6.6 million people who call Indiana home?

Let’s start with a commitment to an ongoing conversation, a respectful and inclusive conversation, about our values, fears and hopes for Indiana.

Perhaps the one good thing to have come from this past week is that it seems to have unleashed longtime, pent-up frustrations. But after the explosion, after the venting, there needs to be healing and repair. And the path to healing will require a lot of listening.

We invite you to see the Indy Star as a partner in that quest. Through our website, our social media accounts and our newspaper we want to help foster a thoughtful, civil discussion about our state’s vision and values. Please join us in an ongoing conversation about what you want our Indiana to become.

It has been a difficult week. But together, we can move from anger to understanding, from distrust to respect.

And we can work to ensure that all Hoosiers  feel welcome and valued, and proud to call Indiana home.

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