A growing number of organizations is focused on making Indiana a more livable and welcoming state for everyone. While the state legislature considers passing HJR6 – a bill that would allow all Hoosier voters to decide whether a small number of fellow Hoosiers (the gay ones) should be constitutionally prohibited from marrying – groups such as Indiana University, Cummins, Eli Lilly and Company, Wabash College and Emmis Communications have joined the roster of Freedom Indiana, a grassroots group with the sole purpose of keeping our constitution from being edited.
Good thing – because while the fast-growing movement around Freedom Indiana has been inspiring, we still have a long way to go as a state. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s premier advocate on behalf of the LGBT community, has released its 2013 Municipal Equality Index Scorecard. HRC graded cities on several categories, including non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, municipal services, law enforcement, and relationship with the LGBT community. Some cities did quite well. For instance:
- Los Angeles: 100 percent
- New York City: 100 percent
- Seattle: 100 percent
- Atlanta: 100 percent
- Kansas City: 100 percent
A couple of those scores, particularly L.A. and New York, aren’t surprising. Atlanta is a progressive city, but it does have a Deep South heritage, so kudos on the perfect score. Kansas City? It’s a little surprising that a smaller Midwestern city – just a few miles from the Great Plains – is holding its own with New York.
Where do Indiana’s cities grade out? Thought you would never ask.
Sadly, Indianapolis scored a 66 – that’s a D where I come from. We scored a perfect 18 of 18 on non-discrimination laws, but we earned a goose egg – 0 of 12 – in the category of relationship recognition. We also took a zero in the city’s efforts to ensure LGBT citizens are included in city services and programs (thankfully, law enforcement scored a perfect 18 in its thoughtful and respectful approach to reporting hate crimes and engaging with the LGBT community).
Bloomington, dotted with more liberals per capita than most cities, scored little better with a score of 70 (the city struggled in the municipal services and law enforcement categories). Evansville (39) and Fort Wayne (30) were embarrassingly low (You can access the entire HRC report here).
Back to Indy: as the state’s business and entertainment hub, we need to be much better. It’s a clear shame that we’re not in the same league as conservative Cincinnati (90) or bankrupt Detroit (71).
Granted, not all is lost: we’re well ahead of Birmingham (9), Oklahoma City (28) and Charlotte (51). But those cities shouldn’t be the bar. In fact, if we reject HJR6 – either through the legislative process or at the ballot box – we can make an important statement to equality watchers around the country: we can separate ourselves from states such as Ohio and Texas and Missouri that have used their state constitutions to permanently rip away rights from a minority group. Indiana can take a different, more progressive path forward.
We’ll see what side of history we choose over the next few months.
Greg Kueterman is the Director of Government Legislation; Access and Public Policy Issues at Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis. He’s a former newspaper reporter who never really dreamed that four years of journalism school would lead to tweeting 140 characters at a time — but now he kind of likes it (@GregKueterman). A graduate of Indiana University, Greg’s a big fan of NFL football, bike trails and non-fiction. He blogs professionally at LillyPad, where he focuses on Life at Lilly issues, including policies that affect the pharmaceutical industry and the company’s focus on innovation.