David Hoppe

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Not over yet

by David Hoppe

Thank heavens, that’s over.

The Final Four, I mean. Fears that the tournament would devolve into yet another public relations debacle, courtesy our State Legislature (and that includes you, Scott Schneider!) were put to rest. Indy did its hospitality thing, a splendid time was had by all.

Before that could happen, of course, a veritable posse of Indiana power hitters, the business elite, had to troop into the Statehouse to make sure our elected representatives cleaned up a measure of the mess they’d made with their “religious freedom” law.

Order, or what passes for it in Indiana, was restored.

Protections against discrimination aimed at LGBT people have been written into state law for the first time.

That’s better than nothing but, as many others, including some Republican politicians, have said, it’s only a beginning. Or, to be blunt: it is not enough.

What is clear — or should be — is that what this state really needs is legislation that guarantees equal rights for everyone in Indiana, no matter who they are, or where they live.

We need to get beyond damage control and broadcast a positive message that backs up all our “open for business” sloganeering.

This should be easy, but it will probably be hard.

That’s because one of the lessons learned over the past couple weeks is that, for some Hoosiers, LGBT people simply are not the same as the rest of us. According to these Hoosiers’ reading of the Bible, LGBT people are beyond the pale. They may feel sorry for LGBTs; they may even want to save them.

But they don’t want to do anything to affirm what they consider a sinful choice.

This is why Mike Pence flubbed questions about discrimination. While he himself would hate to see LGBT people turned away, as he said, from a restaurant, he shows no signs of being ready to protect their civil rights throughout the state. As far as he is concerned, the way some Christians interpret the Bible trumps equal rights for all.

It could take awhile, and an election or two, to straighten this out. Which is tough, because Indiana needs to get past this episode sooner rather than later.

All states in this country of ours are not viewed the same way. In part, it is hard not to conclude the national backlash against the RFRA in Indiana was probably heightened by the fact Indiana is an easy target. National brands can threaten us because there’s little downside for them in doing so. We’re the home, after all, of the “Mole Women” in Tina Fey’s new sitcom, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — a running joke at our expense.

It’s easy to laugh off the state’s dubious perch in our country’s pop culture. Some might even take it as a backhanded compliment.

But the RFRA episode demonstrates the tenuousness of our place in the country’s pecking order. Suddenly we seem a lot more like Mississippi than Minnesota.

So take a deep breath. High fives for a great Final Four. This isn’t over yet.