We aren’t all bigots in Indiana

If you usually read my blog because it’s based on running and fitness, be warned that today it isn’t. At times I just need to write about what’s on my mind at the time, and this is definitely one of those times. This week, Indiana’s leaders, including Governor Pence, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Bill. Let me start by saying I am a Christian. I was raised in the Christian church from birth. I have a strong faith, live a good life, and try very hard to live my life as Christ would want (those who know me know I have a long way to go!). I also have a daughter who is gay. I’ll get to that later.

This week, I am completely dismayed that our representatives can disregard their constituents, and sign a bill that allows discrimination against homosexuals. Here is the legal language of the bill:

Religious freedom restoration. Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. Provides a procedure for remedying a violation. Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer.

The leaders have said it’s misunderstood: ” they say it’s supposed to be a standard for the courts in cases involving religious freedom.” Bullshit. It allows a business to deny service to someone based on sexual orientation because it’s against the owner’s religion, and the government cannot burden that exercise of religion. Seriously. It’s 2015 and our state just took us back to the 1950s. The leaders have said the bill is just like federal legislation put into action by Bill Clinton. Bullshit. That bill was signed to allow women to wear religious garb in the workplace and Jewish men to wear yamakas without fear of consequences. The intent of these bills is not the same. One was created so that someone isn’t discriminated against, the other allows discrimination without consequences from the government. If that wasn’t Indiana’s intent, perhaps they should have worded it differently. When the entire country believes it encourages discrimination, there’s a problem, Governor Pence.

Multi-million dollar companies have threatened to pull out of Indiana; the NCAA has issues with bringing their athletes to Indiana; people on Twitter have said they will no longer spend their money in Indiana. This law does nothing positive for our state. It makes all of us look like a bunch of unacccepting rednecks. It is going to hurt our economy. And it hurts people. Real, honest, hardworking, contributing members of our communities. George Takei called for a boycott of our state. They are boycotting our state, Governor Pence. I think your hopes for a presidential run just went down the drain along with your integrity.

Christians. As I said, I am one of you. My faith has carried me through many wonderful highs and devastating lows in life. I’ve studied the Bible, and spent hours and hours in Sunday School and church. In none of my Christian education or reading did I learn that it’s okay to turn anyone away. Jesus – whom Christians are supposed to follow – denied service to no one…NO ONE! He spent time with Mary Magdalene, the prostitute; he loved her. He went to have dinner with Zacheus. We sang about it, dammit. The wee little man? Why don’t you remember? Jesus spent his time with ‘sinners’ and outcasts. He showed love to everyone. Saying you can’t serve someone because it goes against your Christian religion goes directly against the teachings of Christ. Will you also refuse to serve the following?

  • Divorced and remarried people? The Bible says they are adulterers. A big no-no.
  • Men and women who had sex before marriage? Sin. It clearly goes against Biblical teaching (there goes your business).
  • Those who use God’s name in vain? Heck, that’s even a commandment.
  • People who covet their friends’ big homes or luxury vacations? Lots of jealous people out there.
  • People who work on Sunday, not keeping the Sabbath holy? Are you open on Sunday?
  • Women who cut their hair or wear make-up? According to the Bible, that’s a sin.
  • People who drink or eat too much? Over-indulgence in food and drink…SIN.

Why do so many Christians choose which ‘sins’ are important? Who do they think they are? The Bible, above all, commands us to love. That’s it. Love. If you disagree with homosexuality, fine. But please know it isn’t a choice. Why would my then 16 year old daughter come to me to tell me she is gay if it were her choice? Why would she put herself out there to face the scorn and judgment of others? No kid wants to be different and be the target of bullies. I am heterosexual – always have been. I couldn’t make myself desire other women if my life depended on it. If I wanted to rebel against my parents or society, I still couldn’t just ‘decide’ to be gay one day. Could you? I got a text from a great friend who is also upset about this new law. She texted, ‘I am straight and the last time I checked, I can’t remember the moment when I ‘chose’ to be straight.’ We have no more control over our sexuality than we do the color of our skin. But it’s illegal to refuse service to people of different ethnicities, isn’t it?

My beautiful daughter is one of the best people I know. She is a senior, preparing for graduation and college. She is in the top 10 in her class, president of the National Honor Society, a golf and tennis player, drama club member, band member, and the list goes on and on. She is kind to everyone, willing to help others, and she’s gay. That’s a small part of the amazing person she is, yet someone could refuse to serve her because her ‘gayness’ goes against his or her religion? Someone could hurt her so deeply because our government won’t ‘burden his or her exercise of religion’? How is that following the Bible? How is that following in Christ’s footsteps? As her mother, it breaks my heart to think that this is even possible.

The implications of this new law will continue to embarrass Hoosiers. I have yet to see one positive aspect of signing this bill. I, despite having been raised Republican, have always stayed out of politics because I despise the double talk, but we have to stand up and be counted. And when the leaders of our state disregard our wishes, we have to fight harder. In a couple of weeks, the anger over this bill will die down, but we can’t let it go. Social media is powerful; use it. Email your representatives. Let fellow Americans know that we are not all bigots. Most of us welcome and encourage diversity. Most of us are loving and friendly. Our governor? Not so much. He had his own agenda, and cares nothing about what he is doing to our state. He is narrow-minded and uninformed. He is not representative of a Hoosier.

Homosexuality Isn’t Contagious…

…I really want to add an expletive, but that just wouldn’t be right, would it? I have encountered a couple instances of plain old ignorance in the past week, and that, of course, prompted this blog. As the mother of three daughters, I have always prided myself on staying out of their fights. I was not a mom who got in the middle of their drama, and I didn’t call other moms complaining that their girls were picking on my babies. I have seen lots of girls make up the next day, while the parents continue to bash one another. That isn’t pretty. I also know that many times (most times?) my daughters probably had some part in whatever was going on. Even when I saw the hateful messages sent by the mean girls, I refrained (as hard as it was) from getting involved. Consequently, my girls can take care of themselves.

And here comes the however…when adults are hateful, it pisses me off. Ignorance? Well, there is just no excuse for it. So, without using names, I will just put them in my blog, and perhaps they will read it, and realize how ridiculous their words were.

The first incident was last week on – get this – Facebook. A person from the church we attend posted the following:

Here’s my two cents worth on this gay football player getting all this attention. I heard a preacher many years ago say that God made ADAM AND EVE NOT Adam and Steve. We just celebrated Mother’s Day. If this stupidity continues somewhere down the line we won’t have Mother’s day. Come on people WAKE UP!!!

First of all, I am really sick of the whole ‘Adam and Steve’ thing. Grow up. But then there is the ignorant part: Seriously? Everyone is going to DECIDE to be gay, so we won’t have any more kids, hence no more Mother’s Day? That’s ignorance at its finest. I tried to reply as respectfully as my ticked-off brain would allow. I told him that homosexuality is NOT a choice, and that because I have a daughter who is gay, I am offended by his post. And then, another church-goer replied:

 Let UM HAVE IT GARY. HOPE IT,S NOT TOO LATE.

(I won’t even touch the errors). And people wonder why so many people don’t attend church? Thankfully, we have an awesome church, and this is not the norm. I considered not returning because I will not go anyplace where my daughter is not welcome, but after some online conversations with my minister, I knew that wasn’t the answer. I went to church yesterday, and I worked really hard to think nice thoughts, after all, God knows what I am thinking!

I got through that, and only lost one night’s sleep. Then last night hit. My daughter came home, seemed a little down, and headed upstairs. After a short time, I received a text from her (What? Don’t you text from another room – especially another level – to avoid all that walking?). One of her best friend’s mothers decided that her daughter could no longer be friends with my daughter because…yes, you guessed it…she doesn’t want her daughter to be GAY!  Are you kidding me? It’s contagious? Really? I went upstairs to console my now-sobbing daughter. Hearing her say, “Mom, I’m not a bad person,” was heart-breaking. No, she isn’t a bad person. In fact, she is one of the best people I know. She is kind, intelligent, athletic, responsible, and beautiful. She is everything I could ask for in a child. She has never been in trouble; she doesn’t touch drugs or alcohol; she is going to serve as president of the National Honor Society; and students and staff respect her. Addison is in every leadership group she can be; she’s an awesome golfer; she is in the top 10 in her class. But because she happens to be gay, a parent won’t let her daughter hang out with her? I want to smack that mother. I am not a violent person (at my size, that would just get me in trouble), but this ignorant woman broke my daughter’s heart and made her question her worth. How dare she. I suspect it might not be so much that she doesn’t want her daughter to ‘catch gay’, but that she is worried what others might think. If she hangs around a gay friend, she must also be gay. Right? This mother is likely more concerned with her own image than with doing what’s right.

I wish people would realize that sexuality is only one part of who we are. There is so much more to a person than whom he or she is attracted to. My daughter is a wonderful friend. She would give her last dime to help someone. She is fun to be around, and so compassionate. She is an excellent listener, and can provide common sense when needed. Certainly, she isn’t out trying to convert heterosexuals to the other side. I told her that when she goes to college, things will be better. When she gets out of this small town, she will be more accepted for who she is. The thing is, for the most part the kids at school have been awesome. It’s some of the adults who are judgmental and small-minded.

What’s the answer? We have to educate people. We, and by that I mean YOU, have to stand up for acceptance. Homosexuality is NOT a choice. Gay teens deserve the same kindness, respect, and friendship as every other kid. People need to quit throwing the Bible at the gay community, especially when they choose to focus on only what doesn’t affect them. In the Bible it says the following are sinful:  divorce, using the Lord’s name in vain, cutting one’s hair, wearing make-up, over-indulgence of food or drink, gambling….you get the point. So why do some people pick out only the verses on homosexuality? Why do they have the right to force their interpretation on me? The overall message of the Bible is to love one another. That’s it. We aren’t called to judge or condemn; we are only called to love.

I’ve said this before, but if you are curious about the whole Bible/Homosexuality debate, there is a book called ‘Torn’ by Justin (Somebody) on Amazon that is fabulous. If you want to help kids like Addison, please share this blog. My daughter is not contagious.

Another Snow Day…

UGH!  It’s Thursday, and we’ve been to school a little over one-half day this week.  We are now going to be going after Memorial Day, and from experience, I know the kids are finished long before the holiday weekend.  Keeping them on task after Memorial Day is like herding cats.  Teachers should probably start stocking up on Motrin now.  I have cleaned my house, finished laundry (or so I thought until I discovered the stockpile of towels the girls were hoarding), and spent several hours on school work.  I can’t leave my house because our hill is covered in ice, and I won’t even walk down it, let alone drive.  And so here I sit.  Writing about nothing particular.  Just writing.

I am not going to go into my rant on Indiana’s government wanting to change our constitution to forever ban same-sex marriage, but I do want to let you know that almost 2000 people viewed my blog when I posted about gay marriage.  To put that in perspective, the most read blog I wrote prior to that post was about the Ironman, and it had 270 views.  Thanks to all of you who shared the post, and helped educate others that this is a real cause affecting real Hoosier families.  Normal, Christian families.

Oh………I lied.  I read something that annoyed me this morning.  The Russian president, who is clearly an ass, said they would not protest gay athletes, but that they – the gay athletes – should ‘stay away from the children’.  Really?  Because homosexuals are always perverts?  This makes me sick.  Just because a person is gay is absolutely no indication that he or she would be a child predator, no more than being heterosexual makes a man a rapist.  Why was Russia chosen to host the Olympics?  Thus far I have seen nothing positive that supports their selection.

Fitness.  I am really working to return to my former running self.  Last night I made tremendous progress toward that goal.  Since knee surgery in August, I have struggled to regain fitness and lose the weight I gained.  These snow days don’t help because I am stuck at home with my new Kitchenaid mixer screaming at me from the kitchen, We can make cookies!  Breads!  Cake!  Let’s stir things up!  I have ignored the calls so far (if you don’t count the mashed potatoes I made last night), but I don’t know that I can resist today.  Perhaps if I focus on last night’s run and the progress I made, I can ignore my mixer.

Last night I accompanied my husband to the gym; I was anxious just to get out of the house.  I planned to run three or four miles on the treadmill while he taught spinning.  That distance has pretty much been my max the past couple of months, and for anyone who has run on a treadmill, you know there’s a limit to how long one can tolerate the boredom.  I much prefer running outside, but this winter has made that nearly impossible.  And so I hit the ‘mill.  Everbody’s is busy on Wednesday evenings, so there were people around to chat with, and I had my playlist cranked up.  Someday I am going to forget I am not alone and bust out singing.  Last night I just mouthed some of the lyrics (I don’t think any sound came out), which I am sure could have made a great video.  As I listened and chatted and watched ESPN, I just kept running and running and running….six miles I ran!  I don’t know that I have ever made it six miles on a treadmill.  It might not be a big deal to many runners, but it gave me hope that I might be able to continue to increase my distance, which just a month ago seemed impossible.  I was resigned to just getting in short little runs to get my running fix.  Half marathons?  A thing of the past.  Today I think that I just might be able to once again run 13.1, maybe not as fast, but just finishing would be a thrill.  Stay tuned…

Oooh…There it is!  I love my mixer!  Listen…it’s calling me….

Not a Battle I Planned to Fight…

I am going to step away from writing about fitness today because, as you know, when something else is on my mind, I just have to take time to write about it.  So what’s on my mind this week?  The same-sex marriage ban that is currently being tossed around in Indianapolis.  A year ago, I thought about this topic, but was not passionate about it.  Afterall, it didn’t affect me.  Why should I care?  And then my teenage daughter came out.  Suddenly, the conversation on same-sex marriage did affect me, and more importantly, it greatly impacted my daughter.  My beautiful, intelligent, sweet daughter.

Being raised in a conservative Christian home, I struggled with this topic in the beginning.  I studied, I read, I prayed, and I have come to the conclusion that too many people are interpreting the Bible in a way that suits their needs.  While the Bible does talk about marriage between a man and a woman, it also states that it is sinful to cut one’s hair, to adorn oneself with make-up, and to use the Lord’s name in vain.  Society’s response to that?  Times have change, so that’s no longer relevant.  What about divorce?  The Bible clearly states that divorce is a sin, and that if one divorces and remarries, he or she is still committing adultery.  A sin.  Left-handedness – evil.  Over-indulgence in food or drink is also a sin according to the Word of God.  But times have changed, haven’t they?  Our lawmakers haven’t banned divorce, over-eating, or hair salons.  The overall message that is given throughout the entire Bible is that God calls us to love and accept one another.  That doesn’t mean to accept those we are comfortable accepting; it mean everyone.

For those who say that homosexuals ‘choose’ that lifestyle, well that’s just ignorance.  It is no more a choice than the color of our skin or being left-handed or right-handed.  I know that I could never be in love with a woman, no matter how hard I tried.  I am, without a doubt, a heterosexual.  If I can’t change, why would I expect my daughter to change?  She can’t.  She has no more interest in boys than I do in women.  Why would a teenage kid want to put himself or herself in a position to be a target for bullies?  Why would anyone choose to spend his or her life fighting bigotry?  Why would someone choose to have his or her choice in a partner judged by family, friends, and strangers?  Can you even imagine your own family turning their backs on you because of who you are?  It happens; I’ve seen it.  I’ve seen ‘Christians’ put their religious views before their own family members.   Their response?  They have a right to their opinions and faith.  Well, my God doesn’t teach me to hurt others; He teaches me to love everyone.

Indiana lawmakers are currently pushing legislation to ban same-sex marriage, and to change our constitution in order to do it.  They want to change our legislation in order to discriminate against my daughter.  I was very angry about this, and wrote our state representative, Lloyd Arnold.  He wrote back, and wanted to come meet with Addison, my husband, and me.  I was thrilled that we could put a face on this issue – the face of a teenager.  I asked my friend Katrina and her son Cole to join us, as Cole was also impacted by this legislation.  Mr. Arnold came to town Friday after school for our meeting.  As someone who hates politics, I was nervous about getting involved, but if it meant my daughter might some day have the same rights as her sisters, I was willing to jump in.

In my opinion, after hearing Mr. Arnold out, he is hopeful that this issue will just go away.  He doesn’t really want to have to deal with it.  His belief is that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, but he supports civil unions for same-sex couples.  Great.  Doesn’t everyone dream of growing up and having a beautiful ‘civil union’?  No.  Even my gay daughter dreams of a wedding.  She dreams of a wedding in her hometown.  She wants to be accepted in the state in which she was raised.  Mr. Arnold told the kids that he believes they deserve the same rights as everyone else, and that he respects them, but he never said he supports their being allowed to marry.  He did vote to take out some hateful and damaging language in the legislation, but he also voted for the change in our constitution.  Hoping it will go away is not the same as standing up and fighting for equal rights.  Admittedly, I don’t completely understand all the political mumbo jumbo and the games they play in congress.  I am a more cut and dry type of person – either it’s right or it’s wrong.  It’s a no-brainer that it is wrong that a murderer in prison has the right to marry while incarcerated, but my daughter – a contributing member of our community – can be denied that right because of whom she loves.

Mr. Arnold also said that 70% of respondents to his survey said they want the issue to be on the ballot.  My question for him was what are the demographics of that survey?  I know that we – a working couple – are far too busy to return surveys.  My guess is that most of those who take time to fill out and return surveys are older, retired people.  If younger generations were to reply, I bet the answers would differ.  If this issue does eventually get on Indiana’s ballot, I pray those young people will get out and vote.

If our lawmakers say that homosexuals do not deserve the exact same rights as others, they are telling the bigots and bullies that homosexuals are lesser people, and don’t deserve respect.  They open our kids up to torment from their peers – as if it isn’t bad enough.  I respect Mr. Arnold’s decision to meet with us, knowing he was walking into a hard conversation with moms fighting for their kids.  I believe he is trying to learn more, and is willing to continue to listen.  I was thrilled that Addison and Cole had the opportunity to be heard by someone in power in our state.  Not many kids get that opportunity, and they both stepped up to the plate.  I hope the conversation continues.

One thing to think about is how you will be affected.  If you disapprove of same-sex marriage, don’t marry a gay person.  Would my daughter marrying her partner affect you in the least?  Would anyone be hurt if same-sex marriage were allowed in Indiana?  No.  I cannot think of how anyone would be hurt by this.  On the flip side, thousands would be hurt if a ban takes place.  When this bill passed the house this week, there were tears in my house.  What about yours?   Did you even pay attention?

I cannot end without saying how incredibly proud I am of my daughter.  She is a junior in high school, who talked to her state representative about gay marriage.  She was strong and respectful, even though the topic was clearly emotional for her.  She spoke with maturity and grace, and I could not have been more proud or in awe.  My heart broke as I listened to her voice quiver and saw the tears in her eyes; my heart swelled with pride as I listened to her speak in spite of her emotions.  I love this kid, and all I want is for her to have the same rights as your kids.  Isn’t that what we all want?  We’ve come a long way since I was in high school, but I’m afraid we have a long way to go.  Who is with me?  If you are, please share this blog.  Let your friends and family know that this legislation affects real people, real families, and kids.  Let’s give all kids hope that one day they will be accepted.