So GenCon, one of the largest gaming and scifi conventions in the world, and certainly the largest in Indiana, is threatening to move out of Indiana over the so-called “Religious Freedom Bill” that has just become law in the state. The law was signed by Governor Mike Pence in a ceremony out of the public view, quite literally backed by prominent anti-gay activists.
This law allows people to openly discriminate against LGBT people for no better reason than “My religion says so.” It’s appalling, it’s disgraceful, and it’s on the wrong side of history. The organizers of GenCon are opposing this measure — and rightly so — by threatening to withdraw their convention which brings many millions of dollars in business to the Indianapolis area.
I think that’s a good idea. You have to hit people in their pocketbooks, and if the governor isn’t going to do what’s right, there need to be consequences that will effect his polls in the next election. This is how democracy works — when a governing official is openly working against the wishes and well-being of the people he claims to represent there need to be consequences, even if only during the next election. (As a quick aside, I am very much in favour of representative recall legislation: Corrupt politicians shouldn’t get a four-year free pass.)
This past week there was a well-written post on the Ealdormere Gazette, a new blog aimed at my SCA Kingdom. You see, the SCA’s 50-Year celebration is next year. It’s being held in Danville, Indiana for ten days in June, 2016. There have been calls to emulate GenCon and pull out of the state of Indiana entirely.
Anyone who reads this blog knows my opinions on homophobia, especially institutionalized homophobia. So it might surprise folks to find out that I don’t support moving the SCA 50-Year event. My reasoning is pretty simple: Considering the one-off nature of the 50-year celebration, threatening to relocate SCA 50 Year simply doesn’t carry the same impact as a similar threat from a large annual event like GenCon.
I think a different plan of action should be considered to oppose this law by the SCA: I encourage the organizers of the SCA 50-Year event to reach out to local LGBT groups, asking what our membership can do to support Indiana’s LGBT organizations financially, symbolically, or both.
I also assume LGBT groups in Indiana are keeping track of those businesses who have taken advantage of this legislation to discriminate against LGBT people. I’d like to see the SCA 50-Year event organizers communicate with those groups to put together and publish an official list — not personal lists provided by individual organizers (which apparently is happening) but an officially-assembled and vetted list of openly anti-LGBT businesses… and a second list of those businesses which have publicly condemned this legislation. Individual SCA members can then make their own choice where they wish to spend their money while visiting the state of Indiana.
Unfortunately, the United States is a real legal patchwork when it comes to anti-LGBT discrimination. The Ealdormere Gazette article points out that there are major SCA events in a great many states which have similar so-called “Religious Freedom” legislation (including Pennsylvania and Louisiana, where Pennsic and Gulf Wars are held respectively) so singling out Indiana might be a trifle unfair. And counterproductive.
I also think I need to weigh in on the whole notion of “Religious Freedom” legislation: I think it’s massively disingenuous to describe this sort of thing as a “religious freedom” issue. It’s not: I know lots of Christians (or Muslims, or Pagan, etc.) who don’t have a problem with LGBT people. Hell, I know lots of LGBT people who are openly Christian. Homophobia isn’t a Christian value, and it’s not a religious freedom. It’s ignorance, and dressing it up in religion is demeaning and insulting, not least of which to the very faith being misused.
I don’t know how that works in the States, but up here in Canada we have pretty much the ultimate law on the issues of freedom: It’s called The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and it is the basis of all Canadian law. It is our equivalent of the US constitution, and it states very clearly that one cannot discriminate on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. And by and large, I think the Charter works; where the laws don’t comply with the charter, people can appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court strikes down those laws that don’t meet charter standards and directs Parliament to write new ones that do meet the standard.
But I do really think that laws like the one passed in Indiana are on the wrong side of history. The trend, especially on the generational level, is towards more acceptance of diversity, not less. This is especially true of the diversity of sexuality and gender. In our grandparents’ generation, LGBT people were openly punished, discriminated against, and criminalized. In our parents’ generation, LGBT people gained legal recognition and became more accepted. In our generation, LGBT couples can get married, and there is widespread acceptance… so much so that the Premier of the province of Ontario is not only openly gay but actually garnered a boost in public support when a Conservative MPP made a homophobic implication against her during a debate on the new sex-ed curriculum.
The times have changed. Opinions have changed. And those people pushing the kind of bullshit reactionary laws like the ones in Indiana are, in the long run, not going to win. I’d prefer they lost sooner rather than later, but in the end there’s only one way it can play out: The homophobes and the haters, the reactionary idiots and the religious bigots with an agenda are a minority, and it’s one getting smaller every year.
And I think they realize it. Maybe that’s why they’ve gotten so strident and loud: they’re desperately trying to convince everyone that they’re still relevant.
It’s a bit trite, but as the song goes…