Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Senate Bill 101, overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives today with a vote of 63-31. This bill would make it legal for businesses to refuse services to people based on religious beliefs. The bill will now go back to the Senate for some minor changes and quickly end up on the desk of Governor Mike Pence, who apparently can’t wait to sign his name, freeing those slaves who are unable to express their religious beliefs. Since the bill passed earlier in the day, I’ve received several texts and messages from people asking me what I think. After much thought and deliberation, the following is how I’ve decided to respond.
It is on days like today that I truly miss my mother. Although deeply political, she was able to stand back from any scenario and see humanity at the core of the issue. She taught me to be understanding of other people’s political and religious beliefs and freedoms because we must all be accepting of each other for democracy to work in a healthy manner. She truly understood democracy. One minute a rager with the Chicago Seven the next minute sitting on my father’s shoulders at a Janis Joplin concert at Ravinia. Later, as a mother, one minute reading Amelia Bedelia books to me in bed and years later, giving me a signed copy of Maya Angelou’s And Still I Rise for a birthday present. She loved Bob Dylan and Bob Marley equally, could overeat oranges or vanilla ice cream and loved to dance in the kitchen. In fact, dancing in the kitchen might have been her favorite thing in life. She attended church every Sunday and participated in the Kid’s Diner for underprivileged children in the church’s neighborhood. She was a woman of strong faith. But most of all, she believed in humanity. “Just as soon as you feel like the bottom has fallen out, people will rise back up and surprise you,” she’d was fond of saying.
My mother taught me five very valuable life lessons: Treat others the way you would want to be treated, love passionately and compassionately, forgive easily and refuse to be the victim of other people’s oppression. The fifth and final lesson was the most important; We are on borrowed time as it is.
I’ve thought a lot about that last statement today, because you see, my mother isn’t here anymore. She passed away seven years ago. And in those final moments in the hospital room, stillness and serenity on her lips, the only thing that remained, was between her…and God.
I don’t claim to know or understand God. I know there is one and I’m not it. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel but I also believe in religious freedom. But this isn’t about religious freedom. What knowing LGBT person would want to spend their money or hire someone who so opposed who they are at their core? Not me.
But I’m tired of fighting. I’ve been fighting since I was five years old to have other people accept me for something I never understood in the first place. And if I couldn’t understand it then I know they certainly can’t understand. And I’m done trying. I”m tired of explaining to people who would never be affected by such a bill how it haunts me and once again makes me feel different; less than.
My life is probably more than half over anyway. This is for our children. I refuse to fight so that when I’m 80 I can have my picture taken for the local paper because it’s such an honor that they finally passed some ridiculous bill of rights that I should have had all along. Nope. I’m done fighting. And to me, that is freedom. It is obvious that my word is not important anyway. It is obvious that my life does not matter to those voting in fear, hiding behind religious freedoms that do not specifically affect their personal lives. The best that I can do is step away.
In situations like today, I think a lot about my mother and the lessons she taught me that made her such an amazing role model. Respect for family values and a strong commitment to be a person of character have the led the life I’ve tried to live, as seen in through the actions of both of my parents.
In knowing that, I will move forward with those five lessons in place, knowing that I can’t change the circumstances, I can only change myself. Treat others the way I would want to be treated, love compassionately and passionately, forgive easily, refuse to be the victim of other people’s oppression and live as if I’m on borrowed time as it is, because I am.
And in the end, the truest conditions of my heart, those softest words and wishes that are only whispered between myself and my God, are what will matter most.
This is how I will be expressing my religious freedom.
With compassion and love.