Indiana “religious freedom” bill: bad for state and my family

As a tax-paying citizen, it appalls me that our legislators used my tax dollars to create, lobby for, and now defend a law that opens the door for discrimination against gay and lesbian citizens and visitors. Governor Pence insists that this law is about protecting religious freedoms from the government, yet the law’s language, the most broadly written of all 20 religious freedom laws around the country, does not support that statement. When asked repeatedly if the law could allow bakers to turn away the business of gay patrons, the governor would not answer. In a notable and much commented-upon alliance, businesses are speaking out against the law because it hurts commerce, plain and simple. So as a voting taxpayer, I oppose this law because it is bad for our state.

As the mother of a gay child however, it breaks my heart.

I recall my daughter as a small child, already displaying preferences contrary to cultural tradition. My husband and I already had one daughter and naively thought our second daughter would be similar, and in many ways they were similar. But in other ways they were not. I thought having a second daughter meant I could pass down the wardrobe, but it quickly became clear that she had no interest in wearing her sister’s clothes. She preferred jeans, t-shirts, and plain clothing to the flower patterns and lace.

Of course her clothing preference did not necessarily mean our daughter would be gay, but it became clear from early on that she had different and clear gender type preferences. She was always “Ken” when she played Barbies with her sisters. She had a slew of Ninja Turtles and super hero figurines. We did not try to dissuade her preferences much, though maybe we had to bribe her to wear her communion dress and veil by buying her a new pair of Air Jordans. But for the most part our family just accepted her for who she was because that’s how we saw each other, as individuals with different paths in life. When the time came for us to meet her first girlfriend, it happened so unremarkably our family barely blinked an eye. Acceptance was immediate, but from then on our daughter’s struggle became a family struggle.

Outside of our immediate family, our daughter definitely stuck out as needing more acceptance for falling outside the normal lines. Her grandparents were from a judgmental generation and were not as open as we were. They felt we should make her do as she “should,” so we often found ourselves dealing with those battles. And being different and not understanding what that meant always made our daughter feel excluded. This was a cross she would bear for most of her childhood.

Fast-forward a few decades. We are still fighting the battle of acceptance for our daughter. Though we have come some distance in my lifetime, this law sends us backward. It is still so hard for me to believe that our society is so cruel as to not want a daughter or son to experience love, marriage, and family like anyone else. It hurts to know that even some friends see my daughter as sinful or unnatural. What an awful thing to think about the child of a friend.

And, as a resident of Indiana, I knew the day might never come to see my daughter’s marriage recognized here. But I maintained hope that the wheels of justice would eventually turn -until I found out this law had passed. Now instead of hoping my daughter can someday be married here, I find myself dreading the day she is refused service when dining out, shopping, vacationing, or due to the broad scope of this law, doing just about anything! Who would want their child to live a life like this, always wondering if she will run into a Christian business owner who will demean her existence by refusing to provide a service to her? Would any parent want that for their child? The supporters of this law say discrimination is not what this law is about, but I beg to differ. The law was intentionally written more broadly than any RFRA law out there. Gov. Pence has gone on record opposing any laws that protect the civil rights of gay people.

What else could this law be about besides discrimination?

Photo: Opponents of the discriminatory Religious Freedom Restoration Act demonstrate for LGBT rights at the Indiana Statehouse.   |   Doug McSchooler/AP