Bil Browning

Thou shalt not float in the air

Filed By Bil Browning | June 06, 2007 5:25 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: adoption rights, Baptist Church, bullying, civil rights, Colorado, homophobic behavior, Indiana, Indianapolis, marriage, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, prejudice

sisyphus.jpgI'm fed up. I'm sick and tired of seeing LGBT rights advance around the nation. Don't get me wrong. I'm not against our community gaining acceptance and respect in general. I'm just irritated that it seems to be happening everywhere but here.

When I look around the country and see what's been happening, it fills me with hope for our brothers and sisters in the community. It's all I can do. Hope. Because I live in Indiana.

While New Jersey and New Hampshire have adopted civil unions and California's Assembly has passed a marriage equality bill, Indiana narrowly defeated an amendment outlawing same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Colorado just passed an inclusive non-discrimination law. Colorado - known for it's far right leanings and home of Focus on the Family. In Indiana, a similar bill can't even get heard in committee in the House and would die automatically in the Senate.

The North Carolina House has just passed a bill to ban bullying on the basis of sexual orientation. Recently, the Indiana Senate tried to ban gays and lesbians from adopting or even having artificial insemination. Didn't North Carolina secede from the Union once so they could keep being prejudiced against other people? Weren't we on the "All men are created equal" side of that war? When did we flip sides?

Dallas may elect its first openly gay mayor. Same for Ferndale, Michigan. Do you even know where in the hell Ferndale is in Michigan? I didn't without Google maps. (It's just outside of Detroit.) Indiana has elected one openly gay person - a school board member.

And then here comes the best part... I'm sitting on my front porch working on this post when a tall rather-good-looking older fellow approaches and hands me a piece of paper. He's the pastor of one of the nearby Baptist churches. Yeah, I'm sure you can already guess how this one ends up...

He invites me to his church. I politely decline. He asks why. I tell him. And the next question out of his mouth is, "So you believe that there's nothing morally wrong about the gay lifestyle?" He says this incredulously, as if I've calmly told him I like to eat raw babies and rinse with toilet water. Needless to say, that started a discussion.

I have to say, the conversation went rather well. We argued back and forth about the Bible and what right God had to influence public policy. I tend to get rather serious in these types of discussions, but even the minister got a laugh out of one line of mine...

Bil: Jesus abolished all of the old laws. If eating shellfish is no longer against the law, then neither is homosexuality.
Pastor: But he didn't get rid of all of the laws. Some stayed. You know, stuff like murder, rape, gravity...
B: Show me the Law of Gravity in the Bible.
P: God made all the natural laws.
B: Show me "Thou shalt not float in the air" and I'll show you a bunch of sinful helicopter pilots. Start preaching against them for a while.

I know I didn't change the man's mind, but I hope I put a spark in his brain that might fire occasionally. He actually took note when I pointed out how anti-homosexual preaching could lead to hate crimes and violence against our community. He admitted that I was right on quite a few things, as was he. We both listened to each other and civilly discussed our disagreement. And we parted as, while not friends, respected acquaintances.

Then I think back to all of the bitching and moaning I was doing about Indiana. While everything I said is true, there is one big benefit to living here in a fly-over state. Hoosiers may be slow to change, that's true. But they also tend to favor equality over prejudice. None of the horrible legislative attempts I listed have succeeded. Fellow Hoosiers may not be ready to fully accept us, but they don't usually go out of their way to hate us either.

Like a huge boulder, it's hard to get public support rolling the way you want it to. We've finally stopped it from rolling backwards. Now we just have to start moving forward. The question is: What's the best way to do that?

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The question is: What's the best way to do that?

Move the state capital 100 miles or so north.

That's only half a joke. ;-)

Seriously--the "region" is so much more liberal than most of the rest of the state, but none of us pay attention to what goes on in-state, because the rest of the state acts like we don't exist, unless it's Mitch Daniels trying to privatize our toll road.

It's tough to even get news about LGBT legislation down in the statehouse up here. The papers don't cover it; the news is all Chicagoland, because we have the Chicago affiliates.

It's actually a serious problem IMO, because the most liberal part of the state outside Indy/Bloomington, from where the LGBT community could draw probably the most straight allies, is completely cut off, a totally untapped and disconnected resource.

Take heart, Bil. You may feel like you're beating your head against a brick wall... but it's an increasingly old, outdated and crumbly one. And I'm taking some good thwacks at it right alongside you, or trying at least. A better day is coming and nobody can stop it. The dwindling bigots are aware of that; I believe that's why they're putting up such a hard push right now. I'm thinking (hoping) that it's a last stand.

It's funny, or maybe not, but, I lived in NWI all my life until a year ago when I moved to Indianapolis, and Melissa's right. I had lived 26 years completely shielded from what the state of Indiana was really like. And,.... well, I'm disappointed to say the least. I was warned by my fellow northerners that central Indiana was "behind", but I didn't believe it until I saw it for myself.

I wish I had the answers Bill, it bugs me too- to see all the advancements take place all around us, while we sit in this stagnant state.

More and more I've come to the conclusion that visibility is going to be crucial in moving forward. I refuse to give up.

The Indiana and Gay Pride flags hang together on our front porch and the flags seem happy together, most days the Indiana flag is wrapping itself around the Gay Pride flag, trying to cop a feel, and I think to, now, Indiana, calm down, we'll get there eventually.

It's true about NW Indiana (it's a different kind of liberal up here than in Bloomington, but still an oasis of sanity compared to the territory between here and there) although I'd point out that the House committee that killed SJR7 this year was chaired by a Regionite, Scott Pelath from Michigan City. It would be nice if the state HRC/IE talked about calling Indiana's fifth (and senior!) Democratic Representative more often too.

Melissa, a hundred miles puts you about 20 miles south of the Kankakee River, assuming we just tow the Statehouse up I-65. Not quite far enough, I fear. 135 or 140 miles ought to do the trick!

A. J. Lopp | June 6, 2007 11:30 PM

The same problem that Melissa and Kelly complain about --- namely, an entire corner of Indiana thinks it is a suburb of Chicago --- also exists on the southern edge along the Ohio River. I have complained for years that the GLBT folks in south-central Indiana think and act as if they are citizens of Kentucky --- while the extreme southeast corner thinks they are a suburb of Cincinnati --- in both cases, they apparently don't care that much about what goes on in Indianapolis, even if it is a state constitutional amendment declaring us second-class citizens forever!

I admit, I have been half-hearted and on-again-off-again in my efforts to get a GLBT network going in the Kentuckiana / Hoosier Hills region. But I do keep chipping away at it, and someday that boulder will begin to roll ... (and I hope I'm still alive ...)

The northwest corner at least benefits from the "liberalism" of Chicago ... being near Louisville and Cincinnati, one might think that New Orleans and Biloxi are only about 30 miles farther south!

(I still marvel at the historic marker which tells of the "Garrison Slave Pens" that once existed at the spot which is now the southern end of the Clark Memorial Bridge as it leads into downtown Louisville. African-American men and women were bought and sold like cattle! Reading it never fails to give me shivers!)

So ... if there are any politically interested GLBT folks in south-central Indiana that feel as abandoned as I do ... well, first, I don't mean to be a blogwhore, but I do have a blog for south-central Indiana at And no, it doesn't offer the sparkling contributions you will see here at Bilerico ... but if you visit and leave me a comment, I will at least learn that you exist and would like to see something happen in our neck of the woods.

Y'know, the state capital once was in Corydon, believe it or not! And if you want to see what some of us are doing to bring Corydon into the 21st Century, come to our "World on the Square" festival on August 11. Details are at and

... But this is a family event, gentlemen, designed for the youngsters, and if you wear your leather chaps, please wear untorn blue jeans underneath them.

"Didn't North Carolina secede from the Union once so they could keep being prejudiced against other people?"

I understand your irritation. Really I do. That bill in North Carolina isn't yet law. And that bill was our FIRST pro-LGBT bill to pass either houses of our state legislature BUT... I take offense to your statement: "Didn't North Carolina secede from the Union once so they could keep being prejudiced against other people?" It also shows a real lack of historical knowledge.

North Carolina has always been one of the most progressive Southern states. We haven't always been on the right side of the issues and we haven't always been right, but I'd say we've always been just a bit better than all the other Southern states.

North Carolina DID NOT secede because we wanted to "keep being prejudiced against other people." In fact, we didn't want to secede AT ALL. Our state legislature was against it. Our governor was against it. WE WERE THE LAST STATE TO SECEDE FROM THE UNION precisely because we didn't want to. We were forced to. What else were we supposed to do when Tennessee and Virginia joined the bandwagon with South Carolina? We just supposed to sit there? Secede from the Union or Stay... hmmm... either way: We lose.

To drive home my point on us being the most progressive: North Carolina was not only the very fist state to offer public education, but also one of the very fist Southern states to do the same thing for African-Americans. We were among the first Southern states to integrate our schools. A huge bulk of the civil rights movement started here and although it got a backlash at first, it didn't take very long for things to calm down, unlike in other Southern states. And we are the ONLY Southern state that hasn't faced a huge threat of an anti-LGBT marriage amendment.

Just thought I'd defend my good Old North State. It isn't perfect... but it isn't nearly as bad as it could be.

One of the challenges of organizing a state like Indiana is what everyone has just pointed out. The Evansville area feeds off of Kentucky - and calls itself "The Tri-State Area." Move further east and those Hoosiers get news and views from Louisville. Further east and it's Cincinnati like Allen says... Lots of the eastern border towns get news from Dayton or Cinci. The northern border towns (like where my mom lives) identify with Michigan. And the top western corner thinks it's part of Chicago (East Chicago, anyone?) With so many news sources coming from other states, "Indiana news" doesn't get much play around the state, and the LGBT community in those areas don't hear much about what's going on. It's frustrating - and the local groups need to do a better job of organizing the areas - and quickly!

As for my North Carolina comments, Matt is right to set the historical record straight. You see, one of the benefits of living in such an abysmal state is that you can compare yourself to other states and say, "Well, at least we're not THAT bad!" And when you live in Indiana, there's not much left to be "better than." We tend to pick the southern states - of which North Carolina is firmly in the pack. But hey, think of it this way... At least you're no Alabama... *grins*

Bill, your post prompted some very interesting comments.

I'm so stupid I had no idea there is a really cool festival in Corydon every year. Thanks for educating me A.J. Ah yes the key word to how we WILL eventually achieve equal rights in Indiana, "education". The only way things ever change is by educating the masses. Bigotry is born out of ignorance.

What I see from NCI is that there seems so be pockets of activism scattered throughout Indiana. It feels like from my perspective, and perhaps I am isolated up here, that there needs to be a major merging of these forces. Can you imagine how powerful it would be if we could organize the types of marches we saw during the civil rights movement? Wow. Our opposition doesn't want us to organize. They want us to remain scattered and isolated.

I'm dreaming I suppose