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By Anne Halliwell
Freedom Indiana is planning meetings across the state to boost support to add protections for gender and sexual minorities to Indiana’s existing civil rights legislation.
Indiana’s civil rights legislation already protects race, religion, age, disability and sex.
Bloomington residents wrote out their support for LGBT civil rights at the Freedom Indiana community meeting Thursday night.
The meeting was one of five in different Indiana cities.
Previously, the advocacy organization had visited Columbus, Indiana, and Indianapolis.
Freedom Indiana Campaign Manager Chris Paulsen said the goal of the meeting was to build a community that supports LGBT advocacy in Bloomington.
“We find, usually, that the people who come to the first meetings are the core (of support),” Paulsen said. “They form the core, then bring their friends.”
The organization opposes Senate Bill 100, the Indiana Republican Senate’s attempt to extend protections for LGBT Hoosiers while maintaining religious freedom.
At the beginning of the meeting, which was at Upland Brewery, advocacy organizer Meaghan Lanane encouraged attendees to tell each other their names, preferred pronouns, identity in the LGBTQcommunity and reason for involving themselves in the civil rights battle.
Lanane, who identified herself as an ally in the LGBT community, said the plan was to activate a base of support in the city that could reach out to other organizations.
“We need to make relationships with you guys, build them and let you know how to help,” Lanane said.
Lanane said some of Freedom Indiana’s goals for mobilization are to engage members of the religious community and empower transgender people.
“I love Bloomington — lived here for eight years — so I have so much faith that we … can reach out to other communities and send a message that we’re not okay with discrimination,” Lanane said.
During the meeting, the advocacy organizers manned a large pad of paper, on which the group brainstormed possible organizations to contact to generate support for Freedom Indiana’s goals.
Names of Bloomington churches, campus organizations and individuals with connections to local businesses were all added to the paper during the meeting.
When Bloomington civil code was brought up, Lanane pointed out that the city’s municipal code already protects LGBTQ workers.
However, Senate Bill 100 as proposed would have jurisdiction over local and county legislation.
“That’s part of the problem with the Senate bill — it would actually override the good work that’s already been done,” Lanane said.
After brainstorming, the attendees were equipped with paper, the names of state representatives and instructions to write a persuasive letter to their senators.
Carrie Ganote, an IU student and employee, penned a letter to Senator Mark Stoops.
For her, letter-writing has been a way to make her opinions heard, even when the state as a whole appears not to support what she thinks.
“At least I’ve said something,” Ganote said. “Even if you say that … my voice is overridden by the rest of the state, I feel like I have to say something.”
Ganote said while she is proud of the U.S. for addressing the issue of gay marriage, a pervasive intolerance against members of the LGBT community is still in place.
“I don’t know what that’s based on, whether it’s religious (or not),” Ganote said. “But to bring that into law and policy seems, to me, kind of irresponsible.”
Ganote also filled out Freedom Indiana’s postcards expressing support for LGBT non-discrimination.
“While I don’t have a lot of time for a leadership position or volunteer work, I can certainly write signatures,” Ganote said.
Freedom Indiana delivered more than 5,000 letters to the Statehouse in mid-November, on the same day Bill 100 was proposed.
Paulsen said the next round of letters, collected from the community meetings and other letter-writing campaigns, will probably be delivered on the first day of the new legislative session Jan. 5.
As the Indiana Senate is controlled by a Republican majority, Paulsen said the letters and other advocacy efforts would have to sway many to their cause — although she said Freedom Indiana has met with some Republicans who agree with their line of thinking.
Paulsen said even if LGBTQ nondiscrimination were added to civil rights legislation, common fears like churches being forced to have same-sex weddings would not be realized.
“A lot of (the concern) is misinformation, and we’re here to help with that,” Paulsen said.
Freedom Indiana will meet in Valparaiso, Indiana, on Dec. 14 and Terre Haute, Indiana, on Dec. 17 to complete its tour.SHARE THIS STORY