The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act—and let’s just pause for a moment to consider whose religious freedoms we’re talking about “restoring” here—is going to become the law of the land in Indiana.
But not in my Indiana.
This is not my Indiana. This is not my friends’ Indiana. This is not the Indiana in which I’ve lived my entire adult life—raised my family, grown my business, found my soul mate, become part of a faith community, gained a network of friends and associates that encourages and inspires and challenges me to be better every day.
This is not their Indiana, either.
Ours is the Indiana of Kurt Vonnegut and Dan Wakefield and John Green. We’re the Indiana of Wes Montgomery and John Mellencamp and the Jacksons. We’re the Indiana of Ryan White and Stephanie White and Twyla Tharp—of Bill Blass and Cole Porter and Madame C.J. Walker and Steve McQueen and Abraham Effing Lincoln.
Perhaps it’s telling that most of these Hoosiers had to leave to make their mark in the world. That may be a simple matter of economics: Hollywood’s where the movies get made, and you have to go to Washington if you want to be President.
But we live in a different age. We don’t have to live somewhere else to write books and shoot films and make music, and we certainly don’t have to live somewhere else to live and work and forge community. We can build the world we want right here—the homes and businesses and schools and churches and public spaces that make this place the place we call home.
Because we love it here. No, there are no mountains, and not much water. It’s mostly flat and there’s plenty of corn. It’s too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.
But it’s home, and home trumps everything.
If there’s one thing I know about home, it’s that it’s not so much a place as an idea. It not just where you’re from or where you are, but also how you feel when you’re there.
And Indiana is our home. Right here in the middle of things. Right here where Industry meets Agriculture, the North meets the South, East-Coast liberalism meets hardheaded Midwestern values. It’s a place where you can actually make a difference. If the American Dream still has any purchase in America, it’s here. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it.
And in spite of our stupid new law that will guarantee more religious freedom to the people who need it least—as if the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America didn’t go far enough already to guarantee that—no one is going to run me out of my home.
I’ve heard lots of people bemoan the fact that this law places our governor and our legislators on the wrong side of history. But history is malleable, and it’s a long way off. I’d rather tell them that they’re on the wrong side of America and the wrong side of Christianity. My America is bigger than their America, and my God is bigger than their God.
And I’d tell them—I’m telling them, right here—that We The People who believe in a different sort of Indiana aren’t going away. We’re going to be right here, and we’re going to be gay, black, female, and liberal, and some of us aren’t going to speak English. We’re also going to be straight, white, Christian conservatives who aren’t going to allow our home to be overrun by cowards who hide behind a law that excuses their desire to discriminate against other human beings.
And to everyone else who doesn’t live in their Indiana, I say, don’t give up now. Stay and fight. Tell your friends who left to come back. This is our Indiana. This is our home. We may have lost a battle, but we will win this war.