IN Focus: Politics of Pride Fest

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In this week’s edition of IN Focus, IndyStar reporter Stephanie Wang discusses the politics of ‘Pride’ after a controversial year in the news after the backlash over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

This issue made news again last week ahead of Indy Pride after Gov. Mike Pence penned a letter to the group welcoming guests to the city.

“On behalf of the people of Indiana, welcome to Indianapolis. I am confident that those of you who traveled from out of state will come to know our famous Hoosier Hospitality,“ Pence wrote in part. “Our state’s capital city is well known as a destination for conventions, festivals, business meetings and other events.”

PDF | Pence letter to Indy Pride

But Pence’s letter drew criticism from the left and the right last week.

Democrats felt Pence’s letter didn’t say much. State party chair John Zody issued the following statement last week:

“Mike Pence tried but fell way short of showing true Hoosier Hospitality to participants in the Circle City IN Pride. Pence fails to mention the Festival’s existence, fails to recognize the significance of Pride Month to the LGBT community, and finally, fails to even wish visitors and LGBT Hoosiers alike a ‘Happy Pride’ during the Festival’s run. LGBT Hoosiers don’t want to be directed to tourist attractions – they want to feel welcomed for being who they are. Mike Pence’s letter is just another bland, ill-fated, and out of touch attempt at trying to restore his favorability after he nearly destroyed Indiana’s reputation and cost the state millions of dollars in its economy.

Hoosier Democrats have led the way to fight the old-fashioned policies of Mike Pence and Republicans, and from the beginning, we stuck with our values by opposing RFRA. But more needs to be done to right this wrong, and until LGBT Hoosiers are added to the state’s nondiscrimination laws, we will continue to fight for full equality for all Hoosiers.”

Pence also drew criticism from the American Family Association of Indiana, whose director Micah Clark also penned a letter, which reads in part:

 I don’t know how one can describe what goes on at the Indy Pride event and parades as anything but controversial, but why Governor Pence would welcome this at all, when not all events in Indianapolis receive a welcome letter from the Governor just boggles my mind, and it breaks my heart.   This is happening right when social conservatives and people of faith are already disgusted with the Republican party, politics, and many politicians.  This is like a stick in their eye, and for many, this will be a bridge they can no longer cross again on Election Day.

Governor Pence did not express support for the agenda of Indy Pride, in fact it was a rather benign letter, but the fact that it was sent at all, is a move that he, or his advisors, should not have even considered.  It wasn’t politically necessary, or wise.  Everyone knows that Indiana is a good state and that people are free to do as they choose, but that does not mean such “freedoms” or all actions should be validated by government leaders.