by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, Esq.
I was recently asked why it appears to be so difficult for Indiana lawmakers to pass a bill that protects the LGBT community from discrimination and at the same time, religious freedom. My half joking response to that person was that they were expecting the same body that can’t figure out Sunday alcohol sales to thread the needle of non-discrimination vs. religious freedom, good luck with that one. All kidding aside, while a lot of people say the civil rights issue should not be that complicated, unfortunately it is and it has nothing to do with religious freedom.
First of all, for a number of lawmakers, particularly those in rural areas, the LGBT rights issue is not a big deal. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s true. I’ve been speaking to a number of State Representatives and Senators from small towns and rural communities. When they have their town hall meetings, the tops issues are roads, jobs and schools. They might be lucky to get one question about the LGBT issue. So we shouldn’t be shocked that they don’t get worked up over something that their constituents don’t. Of course there is the irony that nearly 80% of the job creation in Indiana takes place in communities that protect LGBT rights, but that’s another column for another time.
Second there’s the politics of a tough vote. This one isn’t as much complicated as it is a fact of life. Let’s face it, a lot of politicians aren’t necessarily profiles in courage and they won’t take a tough vote unless someone drags them kicking and screaming to it. There’s also the fact that we are about to enter primary season. And either the lawmaker doesn’t want to get a primary challenger or to have the issue used against them by one of their primary opponents as they either run for re-election or seek a higher office.
Third, there’s what I call “the American Beauty” factor. Look up the film and pay close attention to the reason why Kevin Spacey’s character is killed. But if you don’t have time, let me spell this part out for you, some folks just don’t like the LGBT community. Either it’s just a straight up dislike, borderline hatred or they have their own “unresolved” issues. And this subject makes their lives more difficult because it either goes against their own personal prejudices or it’s just another thing that would have to make them come to terms with who they really are and for that crowd denial is a lot more than a river that runs through Cairo.
So when you throw in the above mentioned reasons, on top of the religious freedom and conscious arguments, it’s a lot of easier to grasp why the LGBT equality rights issue is swimming upstream at the Indiana General Assembly. Personally, I support full protection for the LGBT community. I think it can be done while respecting religious rights. But then again, I’m smarter and more enlightened that most people. I also understand politics and with all these moving parts, unfortunately, the longer this goes on, the more I don’t think it will pass at the state level. I’d go have a drink to lament this fact, but I’m writing this on Sunday and it’s illegal for the grocery store to sell me a bottle of alcohol.
Abdul-Hakim is an attorney, political broadcaster and the publisher of IndyPolitics.Org.