Betty Greene Salwak

NOM Indianapolis: Newbie Report

Filed By Betty Greene Salwak | July 29, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: National Organization for Marriage, NOM, NOM Indianapolis, straight allies

I'm breathless, but in a good way. I attended the protest at the NOM rally in front of the Indiana Statehouse on Monday, and someone took my picture. That picture has found its way on the InterWebs, and it's kind of overwhelming. I had no idea the response it would engender.

Birdie protest.jpg

When I read that NOM was planning a visit here, the seed was planted that I might represent another view of Christians to the straight and LGBT communities. I had a sign that I'd made for a previous, very small local event. But up to the minute I got into my car that morning, I was wondering if I'd have the nerve to show up. I am decidedly introverted and joining a group of angry activists--even when we agree--is my equivalent of entering the seventh circle of hell. Repeating my mantra "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" I drove downtown.

I had an inauspicious start. The downtown parking meter jammed. I hoped I wouldn't get a ticket and got out my sign. I arrived with only a few minutes to spare but only four other protesters were there. They told me I couldn't keep the yardstick with which I'd so carefully constructed an interior framework to hold the sign aloft in the wind. One of the guys just broke it off at the bottom of the sign. (All that lovely work! But the inner frame was still there.)

I was wondering where everyone was as the NOM staff began setting up on the Statehouse steps. Then I saw a gang gathered over on the lawn, making plans. How did they know to gather there? I missed that announcement. Soon enough they lined up on the sidewalk in front of the steps.

While we waited for things to get rolling, NOM supporters began to gather on the steps. I was next to a woman from Jesus MCC whose sign said "Jesus Affirmed a Gay Couple." A man from the steps came over to engage us. It got a little heated with my fellow protester, and then the man asked if I would talk with him. I loathe confrontation but I agreed.

He asked me about my beliefs in regard to homosexuality. I didn't want to make the mistake of proof-texting because swapping passages is an endless circle, but he didn't want to leave the subject. He recounted a list of behaviors (in the language of the King James Version) and asked if I considered them sins--yes--but when he got to "homosexuality?" I responded "No." He didn't know where to go from there, and when I started to engage him further, he looked uncomfortable and went back to the steps.

As we waited for the rally to begin, people chatted and took pictures. A man from one of the local TV stations asked me on camera why I was there. I can hardly remember my reply, which tells me to have a sound bite ready next time. (It didn't air.)

Once the rally started my fellow protesters were enthusiastic and loud, led by a guy with a bullhorn. I heard only snippets of the speeches, due to the racket the protesters were making. I'm glad that most of the chants were positive and not directed at the rally attendees. I believe NOM will use negative footage to garner sympathy, and it's effective. We should stay on the high road and simply express our beliefs without belittling theirs.

The police were calm and polite, and when I asked if I could move from the sidewalk, they gave consent. I stood at the back of the crowd at the bottom of the steps and held my sign high. When a man stood one foot in front of me and held his "Don't Mess With Marriage" sign in front of my face, I didn't say a word or move. After a minute or so, an officer asked me to return to the sidewalk and I did. I believe the police were polite because almost everyone was well-behaved. I encourage future protesters to maintain a calm and confident demeanor at remaining NOM rallies. If someone's on the fence on this subject, it can make a difference.

It has taken a couple of days for all the adrenaline to finally disperse. I'm glad I went and I'd do it again. And who knows? That man may be rethinking his list of sins.

Photo courtesy of Phyllis Lozano, Courage Campaign

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I think the best sign to hold up at a NOM Rally would be a mirror. Maybe they should see themselves the way we do - they are crazy.

Most of America is not interested in NOM and most have figured out they're the lunatic fringe. I still prefer we ignore them, than give them any attention, but I can appreciate your courage. Thank-you for standing up for us.

I liked your sign, but would ask that you consider the word "equality," instead of "equal rights." The difference is important.

Regan DuCasse | July 29, 2010 8:24 PM

You. GO. Girl!

Thank you - to ANYONE who will stand up for others when they cannot. I applaud this woman, whatever term she uses...we get the gist.

Thank you for your advocacy. As a gay Hoosier, I really appreciate anyone who is brave enough to stick their neck out in a situation like that.

1. You are made of win.
2. As a fellow introvert, I am officially stealing your mantra.

"What would you do if you weren't afraid?"

Love it.

Donn Murray | July 31, 2010 11:01 AM

Betty: Your brother David is smiling down on you and HE IS SO PROUD OF HIS SISTER!

There needs to be more of this sort of activism. Let's hope there will be!