Despite being from Chicago, I consider myself somewhat of a Hoosier.
After going to Indiana University for four years, I’ve become very familiar with the long, flat highway route to our neighbor state. Since then, little has changed about that road. But as I traveled in a stuffy Megabus last weekend to go visit my college friends in Indianapolis, I anticipated the city at the end of that road was going to be much different.
At this point, we’ve all heard about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Act which passed last month.
It’s essentially a gaping loophole that legally allows people and businesses to deny service to members of the LGBTQ community. The law is absurd for countless reasons. Not to mention, it’s ironic that the bill defends religious freedom by impeding the independence of others.
The act is strikingly hypocritical. And while it’s been “technically fixed,” the damage has still been done.
Of course, it’s not like Indiana has earned its share of recognition for having a progressive legislature. After all, signs along the Indiana highway remind drivers that “HELL IS REAL.”
Even on IU’s campus, I experienced a good amount of discrimination that Chicago never showed me.
The University’s Hillel, a foundation for Jewish campus life, was vandalized during my sophomore year.
On a weekly basis, a dude with a cross-topped staff (like a bigoted Gandalf) would stand behind Woodburn Hall and preach religiously-fueled messages of hate.
When my friends and I went to see Rob Riggle’s stand-up at the auditorium, someone in the audience asked, “I know you’ve worked with Jon Stewart, so what are Jewish people like?”
Despite years of seeing the ugly side of the state, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act still took me by surprise. But through all the hate and discriminatory happenings, there is one positive takeaway from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
My disgust for Indiana’s Religious Freedom Act is not isolated.
In the days leading up to the law’s passage, people posted messages all over Facebook, horrified that Indiana was going to pass the “Jim Crow Law of 2015.” Some posted an infuriated status and others even de-friended those defending the act.
The passing of this act was upsetting, to say the least.
That said, nothing is more discomforting than having friends, family or even professors wrongfully typecasted because of a government decision that they had zero control over.
When I visited Indy just a few weeks after they passed the law, I knew the city was going to feel different. I just didn’t expect that feeling to be a positive one.
When my friend and I walked into a local pub, Hopcat, I stopped her at the door to look at the bright blue sticker on the front of it. From stickers to clothing stores, my friend told me these messages are all over the place.
“THIS BUSINESS SERVES EVERYONE”
Maybe this all sounds like preachy, progressive and naïve. Because yes, there are still a lot of people in Indiana who fully support the bill. But in the end, the cry of acceptance was much louder than that of hate.
It speaks volumes that this law was such a shock to have passed in the first place. After all, nothing is shocking if it’s expected. But after seeing the way so many businesses and like-minded citizens responded to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I’m no longer timid or embarrassed to say I went to college in Indiana.
I may be a Chicagoan, but I will always proudly consider myself a Hoosier.
One bad egg will never change that. And an ignorant Governor certainly won’t, either.